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Two Years Before the Mast 



By / 

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. 

With a Critical and Biographical Introduction 
by Charles Warren Stoddard 

Illustrated 




New York 

D. Appleton and Company 

1899 



1809. 




or 






40188 

Copyright, 1899, 
By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY. 




: A .: m^ 






RICHARD HENRY DANA 



3j»;c 



THE world's great books are foreordained : they have 
this mission, their propagation of good will go on, per- 
chance, to the end of time. Their authors were pre- 
destined from the cradle, and all the acts and accidents of 
their lives unconsciously lured them into that sphere where 
was engendered the book they were born to write. 

So in James Russell Lowell's *' Fireside Travels " we read 
his delightful gossip of " Cambridge Thirty Years Ago " — 
now more than sixty, and the writer and the written of gone 
with them into the silence — we read of that village and how 
*' Cambridge has long had its port, but the greater part of its 
maritime trade was, thirty years ago, intrusted to a single 
Argo, the sloop Harvard, which belonged to the College, and 
made annual voyages to that' vague Orient known as Down 
East, bringing back the wood that, in those days, gave to 
winter life at Harvard a crackle and a cheerfulness, for the 
loss of which the greater warmth of anthracite hardly compen- 
sates. New England life, to be genuine, must have in it 
some sentiment of the sea — it was this instinct that printed 
the device of the pine tree on the old money and the old flag, 
— and these periodic ventures of the sloop Harvard made the 
old Viking fibre vibrate in the hearts of all the village boys. 
What a vista of mystery and adventure did her sailing open to 
us ! With what pride did we hail her return ! She was our 
scholiast upon Robinson Crusoe and the mutiny of the 
Bounty. Her captain still lords it over our memories, the 
greatest sailor that ever sailed the seas, and we should not 
look at Sir John Franklin himself with such admiring interest 
as that with which we enhaloed some larger boy who had 
made a voyage in her, and had come back without braces 



IV RICHARD HENRY DANA 

{gallowses, we called them) to his trousers, and squirting osten- 
tatiously the juice of that weed which still gave him little private 
returns of something very like sea-sickness. All our shingle 
vessels were shaped and rigged by her, who was our glass of 
naval fashion, and our mould of aquatic form. We had a secret 
and wild delight in believing that she carried a gun, and ima- 
gined her sending grape and canister among the treacherous 
savages of Oldtown. Inspired by her were those first essays 
at navigation on the Winthrop duck-pond of the plucky boy who 
was afterwards to serve two famous years before the mast." 

Yes, no doubt "New England life, to be genuine, must 
have in it some sentiment of the sea." Think of Longfellow's 
beautiful lines in " My Lost Youth " : 

'' I remember the black wharves and the slips, 

And the sea-tides tossing free ; 
And the Spanish sailors with bearded lips, 
And the beauty and mystery of the ships, 

And the magic of the sea. 

And the voice of that wayward song 
. Is singing and saying still : 

A boy's will is the wind's will, 
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." 

Then, there is his " Sea Weed " : 

" When descends on the Atlantic 

The gigantic 
Storm wind of the equinox, 
Landward in his wrath he scourges 

The toiling surges 
Laden with seaweed from the rocks." 

There was probably nothing more serious in the seed of this 
sea poem than a windy afternoon at Nahant, but that New 
England coast life has filled his poems with the bitter-sweet 
spray that sparkles in every buoyant line he has written of the 
sea. A tropic calm and beauty are in Holmes's " Chambered 
Nautilus " ; and in the poems of Whittier and Lowell is the 
very breath of the brine. 



RICHARD HENRY DANA V 

Richard Henry Dana, junior, if not a verse-maker, was a 
lover of poets and poetry, and has written passages of beauti- 
fully poetic prose. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
on the first day of August, 1815. He came of old Massachu- 
setts stock, and Cambridge was their home. There is mention, 
in the early records of the family, of a Richard Dana as far 
back as 1640. In the early thirties, school-life in Cambridge 
knew less fun than flogging. Richard Henry escaped the rod, 
with his whole class, probably because he was larger than the 
smaller boys who suffered daily and almost hourly. At 
sixteen he entered college, and there showed a natural 
aptitude for mathematics. In his freshman year occurred a 
not unfamiliar student rebellion, and though young Dana was 
not personally concerned in it, he sympathized with his 
rebellious classmates, and with others was rusticated for six 
months. These months Dana spent with the Rev. Leonard 
Woods, Jr., afterward president of Bowdoin College, in the 
prosecution of his studies. Returning to Harvard, he finished 
his sophomore year, and had just entered upon his junior 
year when an attack of measles left his eyes so weak that for 
a time the daylight was unendurable. For many months it 
was impossible for him to read, and he was obliged to leave 
college. He could not lead an idle life at home, and he 
resolved that a long sea voyage was the one thing needful 
to restore him to perfect health. 

In those days Boston carried on an active trade with Cal- 
cutta. What more natural than that the young man should 
have taken passage in one of the packets plying between the 
two widely-separated ports. Many opportunities were offered 
him, but he was forewarned and forearmed. He realized that 
if he were compelled to pass the monotonous months of that 
lonely voyage, "cribbed, cabined and confined," unable to use 
his eyes, sitting with folded hands, and having no relief save 
revery, his object in voyaging would be defeated, and he be a 
loser rather than a gainer. He therefore resolved to ship be- 
fore the mast, though he knew no more of seas and sailors and 



VI RICHARD HENRY DANA 

of life in the forecastle than one would be likely to gain from 
" those first essays at navigation on the Winthrop duck-pond." 
At first he thought of East India, but being denied the privi- 
lege of shipping before the mast — he had been offered a free 
passage there and back and entertainment while on shore 
abroad — he, with some difficulty, procured a berth on the brig 
Pilgrhn bound for California, which sailed on the fourteenth 
of August, 1834. He was nineteen years and thirteen days 
old ; a lad with no knowledge of the world, or of life, beyond 
that he had seen in a New England village ; a ''green hand " 
broken in health ; his literary career cut short by the measles 
— which is adding insult to injury ; and now began the adven- 
ture that lasted two solemn, solitary years, during which he 
was expected to do unfamiliar manual labour of the hardest 
kind, and he did it ! 

Turn the early pages of "Two Years Before the Mast," if 
you would know what Jack Tar suffered at the hands of the 
tyrannical captain of the brig Pilgrim. Better manners were 
observed on H. M. S. Pinafore, and better salaries drawn ; and 
there was more mirth and melody aboard that jolly craft, 
especially of a matinee and evening. The captain of the 
Pinafore steps forward most politely, and, in resounding 
recitative, cries " My gallant crew, good morning ! " To 
which the crew respond in fitting measure, " Sir, good morn- 
ing ! " and the compliments of the day are exchanged in 
a very sprightly and pleasing manner. Not so on board 
the brig Pilgrim. "Her master," says Dana, "clenched his 
fist, stamped and swore, and ordered us all forward, saying, 
with oaths enough interspersed to send the words home, * I '11 
haze you ! I '11 work you up ! You don't have enough to do ! 
If you are n't careful, I '11 make a hell of heaven ! ' " and 
this he proceeded to do. ''You've mistaken your man!" 
yelled he, now frantic with rage : "I'm Frank Thompson, all 
the way from Down East. I 've been through the mill, ground 
and bolted, and come out a regular-built, Down-East Johnny- 
cake ; when it 's hot, d d good, but when it 's cold, d d 



RICHARD HENRY DANA VU 

sour and indigestible : — and you '11 find me so ! " So they 
found him, in spite of his being hot enough in all latitudes. 
He was known in every port he visited as " The Down-East 
Johnny-cake " — this typical Frank Thompson. He flogged 
his men on the slightest provocation ; flogged them brutally, 
and made a hell for young Dana in his first year before the 
mast. That is what the Frank Thompsons did in those days 
with impunity; they are doing it now; they have done it 
from the beginning, and will do it unto the bitter end — for 
there is no heaven afloat in the merchant marine. 

After a voyage of one hundred and fifty days in the brig 
Pilgrim, the anchor was dropped in the bay of Santa Barbara. 
With charming realism, Dana notes his impressions of Cali- 
fornia upon first landing there : " The sun had just gone down ; 
it was getting dusky ; the damp wind was beginning to blow, 
and the heavy swell of the Pacific was setting in, and breaking 
in loud and high ' combers * upon the beach." The mate and 
crew were to land in a small boat, climbing the right " comber " 
at the one fortunate moment, and being hurled in an avalanche 
of foam upon the beach. A crew of Hawaiians — who were 
bred to this business, and never made a flunk — piloted the 
Pilgrim! s boat to shore ; but read how they did it, for now, 
at once, began the labour of hide-curing and shipping, which 
was to keep Dana busy so long as he was on the coast. That 
first evening ashore in California they tarried till, he says, 
'*The sand of the beach began to be cold to our bare feet ; 
the frogs set up their croaking in the marshes, and one soli- 
tary owl, from the end of the distant point, gave out his 
melancholy note, mellowed by the distance, and we began to 
think that it was high time for *the old man,' as a shipmaster 
is commonly called, 'to come down.' " 

Then follows a little genre picture of California life as it 
was in the past. There are such pictures all through this pre- 
cious volume — a boy's vivid first impressions dashed off on 
the spot, and invaluable as memoranda of days that are done 
for ever — and more is the pity. We still have that bleak and 



Viii RICHARD HENRY DANA 

windy coast ; a coast that is seldom picturesque, and often 
forbidding ; a lonely coast that, for the most part, looks as if 
it never had been inhabited, and sometimes as if it were unin- 
habitable. Cattle, yes, upon a thousand hills, and about the 
colour of the dusty brown background — the background of the 
rainless and almost interminable summer ; a place, in Dana's 
day, for the skinning of cattle, the curing of hides, the ship- 
ping of these to the Atlantic coast ; a place for the barter of 
bright calicoes and a limited variety of such wares as women 
most delight in ; a place, on bargain days down at the seaport, 
where all that was bright and beautiful, in the shape of 
Caballeros and Senoritas, Dons and Donas, picturesque na- 
tive costumes, prancing mustangs with those richly-decorated 
saddles and bridles which were a pageant unto themselves — 
gathered together on ship and shore, and bargained in the 
most mellifluous of tongues, and rolled the dainty cigarette, 
and strummed the guitar, till one's head was turned — turned 
with the bewitching music and "the dancers dancing in tune." 
These were among the few high lights in the picture of Cali- 
fornia life in 1835-6, and the sailor-boy from Harvard took 
careful note of them. The shadows were heavy enough, some 
of them, and these also he noted. Little escaped his eye or 
his note-book. 

He seems not to have been especially interested in the 
Franciscan missions. They were flourishing at this time, 
but later were suffered to fall into utter decay — save only 
that of Santa Barbara: it still survives and is the refuge 
of a half-dozen friars, who pose among the roses in the cloister, 
or down the dim vista of arches without which no cloister is 
complete — and are photographed, clothed in cowl, robe, rope, 
sandal shoon and all humility, to the delight and the despair of 
the artist in search of the picturesque, and that conscienceless 
vulgarian the globe-trotter. The truth is, the essence and the 
incense of the friars and the faithful did not in the least appeal 
to anything in Dana's nature. He fought shy of all that ap- 
peals to those who loved the California missions because they 



RICHARD HENRY DANA ix 

were missions and uniquely Californian and they could worship 
there ; and to those others who, at this late day, with tem- 
peramental enthusiasm, are restoring the long-neglected ruins 
and making of them hallowed souvenirs of the past. 

Mr. Alfred Robinson, the California agent for the firm to 
which the brig Pilgrim belonged, who was in California as 
early as 1828, was familiar with all the missions scattered up 
and down the coast. In 1846 he published a very interesting 
volume, giving his experience of both the conventual and the 
secular life of his day. Dana and Robinson mention the fact 
that every ship that left that almost fabulous shore brought 
away a little gold dust, a nugget or two, or some specimen of 
gold quartz. The Mexicans, the native Californians, even the 
Indians, were aware that there was gold in California, and they 
had a palm-full of " outcroppings " to prove it ; but none of 
them seemed inclined to prospect for more. These were the 
original discoverers of gold in El Dorado — not James Wilson 
Marshall, who appears to have gotten all the credit. But 
Marshall, who was industrious, yet died poor, started the boom 
that has made the year Forty-nine historic. 

Dana says : *' The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, 
and can make nothing for themselves," and he gives data 
enough. to prove it ; still, we know that in his day the missions 
were wealthy in flocks and crops and herds, and we are in- 
clined to think there must have been something more than 
the priest and the presidio, the alcalde and the calabozo ; for if 
no wine was made of the grapes, which were as the grapes of 
Eschol, those who drank it had the money to pay for it and 
for all the foreign delicacies of the season as they arrived, at 
uncertain intervals, blown in across the sea. 

It is the ship-craft of " Two Years Before the Mast " that 
has made the book not only a classic, but an authority, even 
in courts of law. As a picture of sea-life before the mast, it 
is exceptional. Captain Marryat and Fenimore Cooper did 
not seem to have thoroughly understood the sailor who is not 
really at home abaft the foremast. Clark Russell has done 



X RICHARD HENRY DANA 

wonders in a modern realistic way ; but Dana was the honest, 
earnest boy, who went in with the other foremast hands and 
for two long years worked his way like a man. That he came 
of good blood, that he showed wonderful grit, that he jotted 
down his notes from day to day — almost from hour to hour 
— proves that he must have had in him ** the sentiment of the 
sea." The simplicity of his narrative — the total absence of 
any effort at effect — gives the volume a peculiar charm. The 
story of its first appearance is the oft-repeated story of the 
first appearance of many an author's first book. Having 
written out his log, while he was daily drudging in a law office, 
he read the manuscript to his father, Richard Henry Dana, 
poet and essayist, and Washington Allston, artist and author. 
Both advised its immediate publication. Dana was five-and- 
twenty, and not yet admitted to the bar. He was without 
means, and he wished to marry. If he did not hope to reap a 
fortune from the sale of " Two Years Before the Mast," he 
believed that this o'er true tale should secure to him a good 
share of maritime practice, and this it did. But his first pub- 
lishers were wary. To begin with, they would allow him no 
royalty ; he must sell his birthright for their mess of pottage. 
William Cullen Bryant took the case in hand, and endeavoured 
to soften the hearts of the publishers, but all in vain. Alonzo 
Potter, afterward bishop of Pennsylvania, but then a reader 
for the publishers in question, many years afterward told Dana 
that he had advised the purchase of the manuscript at any 
price necessary to secure it. Five hundred dollars was asked ; 
two hundred and fifty was offered. Three hundred was 
begged for by Bryant, the intimate friend of the young author's 
father. No ! two hundred and fifty dollars was the utmost 
that could be obtained for all right and title to one of the 
world's great books. So, as Richard Henry Dana's biogra- 
pher, Charles Francis Adams, says, "for one of the most 
successful American books of the century, and the best book 
of its kind ever written, the author received two dozen printed 
copies, and two hundred and fifty dollars in money." The 



RICHARD HENRY DANA xi 

book was published in two limited editions, which were suf- 
fered, for long periods, to pass out of print, or at least were 
not in stock at the bookshops. In 1868 the original copyright 
expired, and Dana then brought out the "Author's Edition," 
with a concluding chapter entitled "Twenty-Four Years 
After." By arrangement with the publishers, Messrs. 
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., that edition is used as the copy for 
the present one. In England, from the very beginning — for 
his first edition was republished there and brought him more 
money than he ever got from his first American publishers, — 
Dana was welcomed with kindliest greetings by Samuel 
Rogers, the poet, Lord Brougham, Tom Moore, Bulwer, 
Dickens, and scores of others. 

If you would know why he so attracted literary people, turn 
to Chapter XXXIII, and read paragraphs eleven and twelve, 
especially paragraph twelve, beginning : " One night, while we 
were in these tropics, I went out to the end of the flying jib- 
boom upon some duty, and, having finished it, turned round, 
and lay over the boom for a long time, admiring the beauty of 
the sight before me." Ah ! he knew " the beauty and the 
mystery of the ships " as few have known them, even though 
his first adventures were confined within the marshy girdle of 
the Winthrop duck-pond. 

Charles Warren Stoddard. 



Note. — This edition of "Two Years Before the Mast" is published by arrange- 
ment with Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., the authorized publishers of the 
work. 



Ps i ^ii iiiii i n ii ui ii Ml lll l l ll l llll l V /lllll^ 3 




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ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PAGE 

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. .... Frontispiece 
Etching by Stephen A. Schoflf 

Marco Polo, the Traveller . . . . i . . xU 
Fac-simile of a wood engraving coloured by hand, from a Ger- 
man edition of Marco Polo's work, printed at Nuremberg in 
1477 A. D. 

Harbour of Santa Barbara 58 

Photogravure from a photograph made in 1880 

Santa Barbara Mission 140 

Photogravure from an old photograph 

Mission of San Luis Rey . . . . . . . .182 

Photogravure from a photograph 

Boston Harbour, 1836 390 

Photogravure from a painting belonging to the Bostonian 
Society 

The Farallone Islands 398 

Photogravure from a photograph 

xiii 



TWO YEARS 
BEFORE THE MAST 



o>Hc 



CHAPTER I 

THE fourteenth of August was the day fixed upon for 
the saiUng of the brig Pilgrim, on her voyage from 
Boston, round Cape Horn, to the western coast of 
North America. As she was to get under way early in the 
afternoon, I made my appearance on board at twelve o'clock, 
in full sea-rig, with my chest, containing an outfit for a two 
or three years' voyage, which I had undertaken from a deter- 
mination to cure, if possible, by an entire change of life, and 
by a long absence from books, with a plenty of hard work, 
plain food, and open air, a weakness of the eyes, which had 
obliged me to give up my studies, and which no medical aid 
seemed likely to remedy. 

The change from the tight frock-coat, silk cap, and kid 
gloves of an undergraduate at Harvard, to the loose duck 
trousers, checked shirt, and tarpaulin hat of a sailor, though 
somewhat of a transformation, was soon made ; and I sup- 
posed that I should pass very well for a Jack tar. But it is 
impossible to deceive the practised eye in these matters ; and 
while I thought myself to be looking as salt as Neptune him- 
self, I was, no doubt, known for a landsman by every one on 
board as soon as I hove in sight. A sailor has a peculiar cut 
to his clothes, and a way of wearing them which a green hand 



2 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

can never get. The trousers, tight around the hips, and thence 
hanging long and loose round the feet, a superabundance of 
checked shirt, a low-crowned, well-varnished black hat, worn 
on the back of the head, with half a fathom of black ribbon 
hanging over the left eye, and a slip-tie to the black silk 
neckerchief, with sundry other minutiae, are signs, the want 
of which betrays the beginner at once. Besides the points in 
my dress which were out of the way, doubtless my complexion 
and hands were quite enough to distinguish me from the regu- 
lar salt who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and rolling gait, 
swings his bronzed and toughened hands athwart-ships, half 
opened, as though just ready to grasp a rope. 

"With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the 
crew, and we hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor 
for the night. The next day we were employed in prepara- 
tion for sea, reeving studding-sail gear, crossing royal yards, 
putting on chafing gear, and taking on board our powder. 
On the following night, I stood my first watch. I remained 
awake nearly all the first part of the night from fear that I 
might not hear when I was called ; and when I went on deck, 
so great were my ideas of the importance of my trust, that I 
walked regularly fore and aft the whole length of the vessel, 
looking out over the bows and taffrail at each turn, and was 
not a little surprised at the coolness of the old seaman whom 
I called to take my place, in stowing himself snugly away 
under the long-boat for a nap. That was a sufficient lookout, 
he thought, for a fine night, at anchor in a safe harbour. 

The next morning was Saturday, and, a breeze having 
sprung up from the southward, we took a pilot on board, 
hove up our anchor, and began beating down the bay. I 
took leave of those of my friends who came to see me off, 
and had barely opportunity for a last look at the city and 
well-known objects, as no time is allowed on board ship for 
sentiment. As we drew down into the lower harbour, we 
found the wind ahead in the bay, and were obliged to come 
to anchor in the roads. We remained there through the day 



DEPARTURE 3 

and a part of the night. My watch began at eleven o'clock 
at night, and I received orders to call the captain if the wind 
came out from the westward. About midnight the wind be- 
came fair, and, having summoned the captain, I was ordered 
to call all hands. How I accomplished this, I do not know, 
but I am quite sure that I did not give the true hoarse boat- 
swain call of " A-a-11 ha-a-a-nds ! up anchor, a-ho-oy ! " In a 
short time every one was in motion, the sails loosed, the yards 
braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which was our 
last hold upon Yankee land. I could take but small part in 
these preparations. My little knowledge of a vessel was all 
at fault. Unintelligible orders were so rapidly given, and so 
immediately executed ; there was such a hurrying about, and 
such an intermingling of strange cries and stranger actions, 
that I was completely bewildered. There is not so helpless 
and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning 
a sailor's life. At length those peculiar, long-drawn sounds 
which denote that the crew are heaving at the windlass 
began, and in a few minutes we were under way. The noise 
of the water thrown from the bows was heard, the vessel 
leaned over from the damp night-breeze, and rolled with the 
heavy ground-swell, and we had actually begun our long, 
long journey. This was literally bidding good night to my 
native land. 



CHAPTER II 

THE first day we passed at sea was Sunday. As we 
were just from port, and there was a great deal to be 
done on board, we were kept at work all day, and at 
night the watches were set, and everything was put into sea 
order. When we were called aft to be divided into watches, 
I had a good specimen of the manner of a sea-captain. After 
the division had been made, he gave a short characteristic 
speech, walking the quarter-deck with a cigar in his mouth, 
and dropping the words out between the puffs. 

" Now, my men, we have begun a long voyage. If we 
get along well together, we shall have a comfortable time ; if 
we don't we shall have hell afloat. All you have got to da is 
to obey your orders, and do your duty like men, — then you 
will fare well enough ; if you don't, you will fare hard enough, 
— I can tell you. If we pull together, you will find me a clever 
fellow ; if we don't you will find me a bloody rascal. That's 
all I've got to say. Go below, the larboard ' watch ! " 

I, being in the starboard or second mate's watch, had the 
opportunity of keeping the first watch at sea. Stimson, a 
young man making, like myself, his first voyage, was in the 
same watch, and as he was the son of a professional man, and 
had been in a merchant's counting-room in Boston, we found 
that we had some acquaintances and topics in common. We 
talked these matters over — Boston, what our friends were 
probably doing, our voyage, etc. — until he went to take his 
turn at the lookout, and left me to myself. I had now a good 
opportunity for reflection. I felt for the first time the perfect 

I Of late years, the British and American marine, naval and mercantile, have 
adopted the word "port" instead of larboard, in all cases on board ship, to avoid 
mistake from similarity of sound. At this time "port " was used only at the helm. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 5 

silence of the sea. The officer was walking the quarter-deck, 
where I had no right to go, one or two men were talking on 
the forecastle, whom I had little inclination to join, so that I 
was left open to the full impression of everything about me. 
However much I was affected by the beauty of the sea, the 
bright stars, and the clouds driven swiftly over them, I could 
not but remember that I was separating myself from all the 
social and intellectual enjoyments of life. Yet, strange as it 
may seem, I did then and afterwards take pleasure in these 
reflections, hoping by them to prevent my becoming insensible 
to the value of what I was losing. 

But all my dreams were soon put to flight by an order 
from the officer to trim the yards, as the wind was getting 
ahead ; and I could plainly see by the looks the sailors occa- 
sionally cast to windward, and by the dark clouds that were 
fast coming up, that we had bad weather to prepare for, and 
I had heard the captain say that he expected to be in the 
Gulf Stream by twelve o'clock. In a few minutes eight bells 
were struck, the watch called, and we went below. I now be- 
gan to feel the first discomforts of a sailor's life. The steer- 
age, in which I lived, was filled with coils of rigging, spare 
sails, old junk, and ship stores, which had not been stowed 
away. Moreover, there had been no berths put up for us to 
sleep in, and we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our 
clothes upon. The sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling 
heavily, and everything was pitched about in grand confusion. 
There was a complete "hurrah's nest," as the sailors say, 
"everything on top and nothing at hand." A large hawser 
had been coiled away on my chest ; my hats, boots, mattress, 
and blankets had all fetched away and gone over to leeward, 
and were jammed and broken under the boxes and coils of 
rigging. To crown all, we were allowed no light to find any- 
thing with, and I was just beginning to feel strong symptoms 
of sea-sickness, and that listlessness and inactivity which 
accompany it. Giving up all attempts to collect my things 
together, I lay down on the sails, expecting every moment 



6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

to hear the cry, " All hands ahoy ! " which the approaching 
storm would make necessary. I shortly heard the raindrops 
falling on deck thick and fast, and the watch evidently had 
their hands full of work, for I could hear the loud and re- 
peated orders of the mate, trampling of feet, creaking of the 
blocks, and all the accompaniments of a coming storm. In a 
few minutes the slide of the hatch was thrown back, which 
let down the noise and tumult of the deck still louder, the 
cry of "All hands ahoy! tumble up here and take in sail," 
saluted our ears, and the hatch was quickly shut again. 
When I got upon deck, a new scene and a new experience 
was before me. 

The little brig was close-hauled upon the wind, and lying 
over, as it then seemed to me, nearly upon her beam ends. 
The heavy head sea was beating against her bows with the 
noise and force almost of a sledgehammer, and flying over 
the deck, drenching us completely through. The topsail 
halyards had been let go, and the great sails were filling out 
and backing against the masts with a noise like thunder; 
the wind was whistling through the rigging ; loose ropes were 
flying about ; loud, and to me, unintelligible orders constantly 
given, and rapidly executed ; and the sailors " singing out " at 
the ropes in their hoarse and peculiar strains. 

In addition to all this, I had not got my " sea legs on," 
was dreadfully sea-sick, with hardly strength enough to hold on 
to anything, and it was " pitch dark." This was my condition 
when I was ordered aloft, for the first time, to reef topsails. 

How I got along, I can not now remember. I " laid out " 
on the yards and held on with all my strength. I could not 
have been of much service, for I remember having been sick 
several times before I left the topsail yard, making wild 
vomits into the black night, to leeward. Soon all was snug 
aloft, and we were again allowed to go below. This I did 
not consider much of a favour, for the confusion of everything 
below, and that inexpressible sickening smell, caused by the 
shaking up of bilge water in the hold, made the steerage but 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 7 

an indifferent refuge from the cold, wet decks. I had often 
read of the nautical experiences of others, but I felt as though 
there could be none worse than mine ; for, in addition to every 
other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the 
first night of a two years' voyage. When we were on deck, 
we were not much better oif, for we were continually ordered 
about by the officer, who said that it was good for us to be in 
motion. Yet anything was better than that horrible state of 
things below. I remember very well going to the hatchway 
and putting my head down, when I was oppressed by 
nausea, and always being relieved immediately. It was an 
effectual emetic. 

This state of things continued for two days. 

Wednesday y August 20th. We had the watch on deck 
from four till eight, this morning. When we came on deck 
at four o'clock, we found things much changed for the better. 
The sea and wind had gone down, and the stars were out 
bright. I experienced a corresponding change in my feel- 
ings, yet continued extremely weak from my sickness. I 
stood in the waist on the weather side, watching the gradual 
breaking of the day, and the first streaks of the early light. 
Much has been said of the sunrise at sea; but it will not 
compare with the sunrise on shore. It lacks the accompani- 
ments of the songs of birds, the awakening hum of humanity, 
and the glancing of the first beams upon trees, hills, spires, 
and house-tops, to give it life and spirit. There is no scenery. 
But, although the actual rise of the sun at sea is not so beau- 
tiful, yet nothing will compare for melancholy and dreariness 
with the early breaking of day upon " Old Ocean's gray and 
melancholy waste." 

There is something in the first gray streaks stretching 
along the eastern horizon and throwing an indistinct light 
upon the face of the deep, which combines with the bound- 
lessness and unknown depth of the sea around, and gives one 
a feeling of loneliness, of dread, and of melancholy forebod- 
ing, which nothing else in nature can. This gradually passes 



8 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

away as the light grows brighter, and when the sun comes 
up, the ordinary monotonous sea day begins. 

From such reflections as these, I was aroused by the 
order from the officer, '^ Forward there ! rig the head-pump ! " 
I found that no time was allowed for day-dreaming, but that 
we must "turn to" at the first light. Having called up the 
"idlers," namely, carpenter, cook, and steward, and rigged 
the pump, we began washing down the decks. This opera- 
tion, which is performed every morning at sea, takes nearly 
two hours ; and I had hardly strength enough to get through 
it. After we had finished, swabbed down decks, and coiled 
up the rigging, I sat on the spars, waiting for seven bells, 
which was the signal for breakfast. The officer, seeing my 
lazy posture, ordered me to slush the mainmast, from the 
royal-mast-head down. The vessel was then rolling a little, 
and I had taken no food for three days, so that I felt tempted 
to tell him that I had rather wait till after breakfast ; but I 
knew that I must "take the bull by the horns," and that if I 
showed any sign of want of spirit or backwardness, I should 
be ruined at once. So I took my bucket of grease and climbed 
up to the royal-mast-head. Here the rocking of the vessel, 
which increases the higher you go from the foot of the mast, 
which is the fulcrum of the lever, and the smell of the grease, 
which offended my fastidious senses, upset my stomach again, 
and I was not a little rejoiced when I had finished my job and 
got upon the comparative terra firma of the deck. In a few 
minutes seven bells were struck, the log hove, the watch 
called, and we went to breakfast. Here I can not but remem- 
ber the advice of the cook, a simple-hearted African. " Now," 
says he, " my lad, you are well cleaned out ; you haven't got a 
drop of your 'long-shore swash aboard of you. You must be- 
gin on a new tack, — pitch all your sweetmeats overboard, 
and turn to upon good hearty salt beef and ship bread, and 
I'll promise you, you'll have your ribs well sheathed, and be 
as hearty as any of 'em, afore you are up to the Horn." This 
would be good advice to give to passengers, when they set 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 9 

their hearts on the little niceties which they have laid in, in 
case of seasickness. 

I can not describe the change which half a pound of cold 
salt beef and a biscuit or two produced in me. I was a new 
being. Having a watch below until noon, so that I had some 
time to myself, I got a huge piece of strong, cold salt beef from 
the cook, and kept gnawing upon it until twelve o'clock. When 
we went on deck, I felt somewhat like a man, and could begin 
to learn my sea duty with considerable spirit. At about two 
o'clock, we heard the loud cry of " Sail ho ! " from aloft, and 
soon saw two sails to windward, going directly athwart our 
hawse. This was the first time that I had seen a sail at sea. 
I thought then, and have always since, that no sight exceeds 
it in interest, and few in beauty. They passed to leeward of 
us, and out of hailing distance ; but the captain could read 
the names on their sterns with the glass. They were the 
ship Helen Mar, of New York, and the brig Mermaid, of 
Boston. They were both steering westward, and were bound 
in for our " dear native land." 

Thursday, August 21st. This day the sun rose clear ; we 
had a fine wind, and everything was bright and cheerful. I 
had now got my sea legs on, and was beginning to enter upon 
the regular duties of a sea life. About six bells, that is, three 
o'clock P.M., we saw a sail on our larboard bow. I was very 
desirous, like every new sailor, to speak her. She came 
down to us, backed her main-top-sail, and the two vessels 
stood "head on," bowing and curveting at each other like a 
couple of war-horses reined in by their riders. It was the 
first vessel that I had seen near, and I was surprised to find 
how much she rolled and pitched in so quiet a sea. She 
plunged her head into the sea, and then, her stern settling 
gradually down, her huge bows rose up, showing the bright 
copper, and her stem and breasthooks dripping, like old Nep- 
tune's locks, with the brine. Her decks were filled with pas- 
sengers, who had come up at the cry of " Sail ho ! " and who, 
by their dress and features, appeared to be Swiss and French 



10 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

emigrants. She hailed us at first in French, but receiving no 
answer, she tried us in EngUsh. She was the ship La Caro- 
lina, from Havre, for New York. We desired her to report 
the brig Pilgrim, from Boston, for the northwest coast of 
America, five days out. She then filled away and left us to 
plough on through our waste of waters. 

There is a settled routine for hailing ships at sea : " Ship 
a-hoy ! " Answer, " Hulloa ! " " What ship is that, pray ? " 
"The ship Carolina, from Havre, bound to New York. 
Where are you from ?'* " The brig Pilgrim, from Boston, 
bound to the coast of California, five days out." Unless 
there is leisure, or something special to say, this form is not 
much varied from. 

This day ended pleasantly ; we had got into regular and 
comfortable weather, and into that routine of sea life which is 
only broken by a storm, a sail, or the sight of land. 



CHAPTER III 

AS we have now had a long " spell " of fine weather, 
without any incident to break the monotony of our 
lives, I may have no better place for a description of 
the duties, regulations, and customs of an American mer- 
chantman, of which ours was a fair specimen. 

The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He 
stands no watch, comes and goes when he pleases, is account- 
able to no one, and must be obeyed in everything, without a 
question, even from his chief officer. He has the power to 
turn his officers off duty, and even to break them and make 
them do duty as sailors in the forecastle.' Where there are 
no passengers and no supercargo, as in our vessel, he has no 
companion but his own dignity, and few pleasures, unless he 
differs from most of his kind, beyond the consciousness of 
possessing supreme power, and, occasionally, the exercise of it. 

The prime minister, the official organ, and the active and 
superintending officer is the chief mate. He is first lieu- 
tenant, boatswain, sailing-master, and quarter-master. The 
captain tells him what he wishes to have done, and leaves to 
him the care of overseeing, of allotting the work, and also the 
responsibility of its being well done. The mate (as he is 
always called, par excellence) also keeps the log-book, for 
which he is responsible to the owners and insurers, and has 
the charge of the stowage, safe-keeping, and delivery of the 
cargo. He is also, ex officio, the wit of the crew ; for the 
captain does not condescend to joke with the men, and 
the second mate no one cares for ; so that when " the mate " 
thinks fit to entertain " the people " with a coarse joke or a 
little practical wit, every one feels bound to laugh. 

I There is a doubt of his power to do the latter. 
II 



12 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

The second mate's is proverbially a dog's berth. He is 
neither officer nor man. He is obliged to go aloft to reef and 
furl the topsails, and to put his hands into the tar and slush, 
with the rest, and the men do not much respect him as an 
officer. The crew call him the "sailor's waiter," as he has 
to furnish them with spun-yarn, marline, and all other stuffs 
that they need in their work, and has charge of the boat- 
swain's locker, which includes serving-boards, marline-spikes, 
etc. He is expected by the captain to maintain his dignity 
and to enforce obedience, and still is kept at a great distance 
from the mate, and obliged to work with the crew. He is 
one to whom little is given and of whom much is required. 
His wages are usually double those of a common sailor, and 
he eats and sleeps in the cabin ; but he is obliged to be on 
deck nearly all his time, and eats at the second table, that is, 
makes a meal out of what the captain and chief mate leave. 

The steward is the captain's servant, and has charge of 
the pantry, from which every one, even the mate himself, is 
excluded. These distinctions usually find him an enemy in 
the mate, who does not like to have any one on board who 
is not entirely under his control ; the crew do not consider 
him as one of their number, so he is left to the mercy of the 
captain. 

The cook, whose title is *' Doctor," is the patron of the 
crew, and those who are in his favour can get their wet 
mittens and stockings dried, or light their pipes at the galley 
in the night-watch. These two worthies, together with the 
carpenter (and sailmaker, if there be one), stand no watch, 
but, being employed all day, are allowed to "sleep in" at 
night, unless all hands are called. 

The crew are divided into two divisions, as equally as may 
be, called the watches. Of these, the chief mate commands 
the larboard, and the second mate the starboard. They 
divide the time between them, being on and off duty, or, as it 
is called, on deck and below, every other four hours. The 
three night-watches are called the first, the middle, and the 



SHIP'S DUTIES 13 

morning watch. If, for instance, the chief mate with the lar- 
board watch have the first night-watch from eight to twelve, 
at that hour the starboard watch and the second mate take 
the deck, while the larboard watch and the first mate go 
below until four in the morning, when they come on deck 
again and remain until eight. As the larboard watch will 
have been on deck eight hours out of the twelve, while the 
starboard watch will have been up only four hours, the former 
have what is called a "forenoon watch below," that is, from 
eight A.M. till twelve m. In a man-of-war, and in some mer- 
chantmen, this alternation of watches is kept up throughout the 
twenty-four hours, which is called having "watch and watch " ; 
but our ship, like most merchantmen, had " all hands " from 
twelve o'clock till dark, except in very bad weather, when we 
were allowed " watch and watch." 

An explanation of the " dog-watches " may, perhaps, be 
necessary to one who has never been at sea. Their purpose 
is to shift the watches each night, so that the same watch 
shall not be on deck at the same hours throughout a voyage. 
In order to effect this, the watch from four to eight p.m. is 
divided into two half-watches, one from four to six, and the 
other from six to eight. By this means they divide the 
twenty-four hours into seven watches instead of six, and 
thus shift the hours every night. As the dog-watches come 
during twilight, after the day's work is done, and before' the 
night-watch is set, they are the watches in which everybody 
is on deck. The captain is up, walking on the weather side 
of the quarter-deck, the chief mate on the lee side, and the 
second mate about the weather gangway. The steward has 
finished his work in the cabin, and has come up to smoke his 
pipe with the cook in the galley. The crew are sitting on the 
windlass or lying on the forecastle, smoking, singing, or telling 
long yarns. At eight o'clock eight bells are struck, the log 
is hove, the watch set, the wheel relieved, the galley shut up, 
and the watch off duty goes below. 

The morning begins with the watch on deck's "turning 



14 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

to " at daybreak and washing down, scrubbing, and swabbing 
the decks. This, together with filling the " scuttled butt " 
with fresh water, and coiling up the rigging, usually occupies 
the time until seven bells (half after seven), when all hands 
get breakfast. At eight the day's work begins, and lasts 
until sundown, with the exception of an hour for dinner. 

Before I end my explanations, it may be well to define a 
day's work, and to correct a mistake prevalent among lands- 
men about a sailor's life. Nothing is more common than to 
hear people say, " Are not sailors very idle at sea ? What 
can they find to do ? " This is a natural mistake, and, being 
frequently made, is one which every sailor feels interested in 
having corrected. In the first place, then, the discipline of 
the ship requires every man to be at work upon something 
when he is on deck, except at night and on Sundays. At all 
other times you will never see a man, on board a well-ordered 
vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down, or leaning over the 
side. It is the officer's duty to keep every one at work, even 
if there is nothing to be done but to scrape the rust from the 
chain cables. In no state prison are the convicts more regu- 
larly set to work, and more closely watched. No conversation 
is allowed among the crew at their duty, and though they fre- 
quently do talk when aloft, or when near one another, yet they 
stop when an officer is nigh. 

With regard to the work upon which the men are put, it is 
a matter which probably would not be understood by one who 
has not been at sea. When I first left port, and found that 
we were kept regularly employed for a week or two, I sup- 
posed that we were getting the vessel into sea trim, and that 
it would soon be over, and we should have nothing to do but 
to sail the ship ; but I found that it continued so for two years, 
and at the end of the two years there was as much to be done 
as ever. As has often been said, a ship is like a lady's watch, 
always out of repair. When first leaving port, studding-sail 
gear is to be rove, all the running rigging to be examined, 
that which is unfit for use to be got down, and new rigging 



SHIP'S DUTIES 15 

rove in its place; then the standing rigging is to be over- 
hauled, replaced, and repaired in a thousand different ways ; 
and wherever any of the numberless ropes or the yards are 
chafing or wearing upon it, there "chafing gear," as it is 
called, must be put on. This chafing gear consists of worm- 
ing, parcelling, roundings, battens, and service of all kinds, — 
rope-yarns, spun-yarn, marline, and seizing-stuffs. Taking off, 
putting on, and mending the chafing gear alone, upon a vessel, 
would find constant employment for a man or for two men, 
during working hours, for a whole voyage. 

The next point to be considered is, that all the "small 
stuffs " which are used on board a ship — such as spun-yarn, 
marline, seizing-stuff, etc. — are made on board. The owners 
of a vessel buy up incredible quantities of "old junk," which 
the sailors unlay, and, after drawing out the yarns, knot them 
together, and roll them up in balls. These "rope-yarns " are 
constantly used for various purposes, but the greater part is 
manufactured into spun-yarn. For this purpose, every vessel 
is furnished with a " spun-yarn winch " ; which is very simple, 
consisting of a wheel and spindle. This may be heard con- 
stantly going on deck in pleasant weather ; and we had em- 
ployment, during a great part of the time, for three hands, in 
drawing and knotting yarns, and making spun-yarn. 

Another method of employing the crew is "setting-up" 
rigging. Whenever any of the standing rigging becomes 
slack (which is continually happening), the seizings and 
coverings must be taken off, tackles got up, and, after the 
rigging is bowsed well taut, the seizings and coverings be 
replaced, which is a very nice piece of work. There is also 
such a connection between different parts of a vessel, that 
one rope can seldom be touched without requiring a change 
in another. You cannot stay a mast aft by the back stays, 
without slacking up the head stays, etc. If we add to this all 
the tarring, greasing, oiling, varnishing, painting, scraping, and 
scrubbing which is required in the course of a long voyage, 
and also remember this is all to be done in addition to watch- 



I6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ing at night, steering, reefing, furling, bracing, making and 
setting sail, and pulling, hauling, and climbing in every direc- 
tion, one will hardly ask, " What can a sailor find to do at 
sea?" 

If, after all this labour, — after exposing their lives and 
limbs in storms, wet and cold, — 

" Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch, 
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf 
Keep their furs dry," — 

the merchants and captains think that the sailors have not 
earned their twelve dollars a month (out of which they clothe 
themselves), and their salt beef and hard bread, they keep 
them picking oakum — ad infinitum. This is the usual re- 
source upon a rainy day, for then it will not do to work upon 
rigging; and when it is pouring down in floods, instead of 
letting the sailors stand about in sheltered places, and talk, 
and keep themselves comfortable, they are separated to dif- 
ferent parts of the ship, and kept at work picking oakum. I 
have seen oakum stuff placed about in different parts of the 
ship, so that the sailors might not be idle in the snatches be- 
tween the frequent squalls upon crossing the equator. Some 
officers have been so driven to find work for the crew in a ship 
ready for sea, that they have set them to pounding the anchors 
(often done) and scraping the chain cables. The " Philadelphia 
Catechism " is, 

" Six days shalt thou labour and do all thou art able, 
And on the seventh, — holystone the decks and scrape the cable." 

This kind of work, of course, is not kept up off Cape 
Horn, Cape of Good Hope, and in extreme north and south 
latitudes ; but I have seen the decks washed down and 
scrubbed when the water would have frozen if it had been 
fresh, and all hands kept at work upon the rigging, when we 
had on our pea-jackets, and our hands so numb that we could 
hardly hold our marline-spikes. 



SHIP'S DUTIES 17 

I have here gone out of my narrative course in order that 
any who read this may, at the start, form as correct an idea 
of a sailor's hfe and duty as possible. I have done it in this 
place because, for some time, our life was nothing but the 
unvarying repetition of these duties, which can be better de- 
scribed together. Before leaving this description, however, I 
would state, in order to show landsmen how little they know 
of the nature of a ship, that a ship-carpenter is kept constantly 
employed, during good weather, on board vessels which are in 
what is called perfect sea order. 



CHAPTER IV 

AFTER speaking the Carolina, on the 2ist of August, 
nothing occurred to break the monotony of our life 
until — 

Friday, September ^th, when we saw a sail on our weather 
(starboard) beam. She proved to be a brig under English 
colours, and, passing under our stern, reported herself as forty- 
nine days from Buenos Ayres, bound to Liverpool. Before 
she had passed us, " Sail ho ! " was cried again, and we made 
another sail, broad on our weather bow, and steering athwart 
our hawse. She passed out of hail, but we made her out to 
be an hermaphrodite brig, with Brazilian colours in her main 
rigging. By her course, she must have been bound from 
Brazil to the south of Europe, probably Portugal. 

Stmday, September yth. Fell in with the northeast trade- 
winds. This morning we caught our first dolphin, which I 
was very eager to see. I was disappointed in the colours of 
this fish when dying. They were certainly very beautiful, 
but not equal to what has been said of them. They are too 
indistinct. To do the fish justice, there is nothing more beauti- 
ful than the dolphin when swimming a few feet below the sur- 
face, on a bright day. It is the most elegantly formed, and 
also the quickest, fish in salt water ; and the rays of the sun 
striking upon it, in its rapid and changing motions, reflected 
from the water, make it look like a stray beam from a rainbow. 

This day was spent like all pleasant Sundays at sea. The 
decks are washed down, the rigging coiled up, and everything 
put in order ; and, throughout the day, only one watch is kept 
on deck at a time. The men are all dressed in their best white 
duck trousers, and red or checked shirts, and have nothing to 
do but to make the necessary changes in the sails. They 

i8 



SUNDAYS AT SEA 19 

employ themselves in reading, talking, smoking, and mending 
their clothes. If the weather is pleasant, they bring their work 
and their books upon deck, and sit down upon the forecastle 
and windlass. This is the only day on which these privileges 
are allowed them. When Monday comes, they put on their 
tarry trousers again, and prepare for six days of labour. 

To enhance the value of Sunday to the crew, they are al- 
lowed on that day a pudding, or, as it is called, a "duff." This 
is nothing more than flour boiled with water, and eaten with 
molasses. It is very heavy, dark, and clammy, yet it is looked 
upon as a luxury, and really forms an agreeable variety with 
salt beef and pork. Many a rascally captain has made up with 
his crew, for hard usage, by allowing them duff twice a week 
on the passage home. 

On board some vessels Sunday is made a day of instruc- 
tion and of religious exercises ; but we had a crew of swearers, 
from the captain to the smallest boy ; and a day of rest, and 
of something like quiet, social enjoyment, was all that we could 
expect. 

We continued running large before the northeast trade- 
winds for several days, until Monday — 

September 22dy when, upon coming on deck at seven 
bells in the morning, we found the other watch aloft throw- 
ing water upon the sails ; and, looking astern, we saw a small 
clipper-built brig with a black hull heading directly after us. 
We went to work immediately, and put all the canvas upon the 
brig which we could get upon her, rigging out oars for extra 
studding-sail yards, and continued wetting down the sails by 
buckets of water whipped up to the mast-head, until about 
nine o'clock, when there came on a drizzling rain. The vessel 
continued in pursuit, changing her course as we changed ours, 
to keep before the wind. The captain, who watched her with 
his glass, said that she was armed, and full of men, and showed 
no colours. We continued running dead before the wind, know- 
ing that we sailed better so, and that clippers are fastest on 
the wind. We had also another advantage. The wind was 



20 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

light, and we spread more canvas than she did, having royals 
and sky-sails fore and aft, and ten studding-sails ; while she, 
being an hermaphrodite brig, had only a gaff topsail aft. Early 
in the morning she was overhauling us a little, but after the 
rain came on and the wind grew lighter, we began to leave her 
astern. All hands remained on deck throughout the day, and 
we got our fire-arms in order; but we were too few to have 
done anything with her, if she had proved to be what we 
feared. Fortunately there was no moon, and the night which 
followed was exceedingly dark, so that, by putting out all the 
lights on board and altering our course four points, we hoped 
to get out of her reach. We removed the light in the binnacle, 
and steered by the stars, and kept perfect silence through the 
night. At daybreak there was no sign of anything in the 
horizon, and we kept the vessel off to her course. 

Wednesday, October ist. Crossed the equator in Ion. 24° 
24' W. I now, for the first time, felt at liberty, according to 
the old usage, to call myself a son of Neptune, and was very 
glad to be able to claim the title without the disagreeable initi- 
ation which so many have to go through. After once crossing 
the line, you can never be subjected to the process, but are 
considered as a son of Neptune, with full powers to play tricks 
upon others. This ancient custom is now seldom allowed, un- 
less there are passengers on board, in which case there is al- 
ways a good deal of sport. 

It had been obvious to all hands for some time that the 
second mate, whose name was Foster, was an idle, careless 
fellow, and not much of a sailor, and that the captain was ex- 
ceedingly dissatisfied with him. The power of the captain in 
these cases was well known, and we all anticipated a difficulty. 
Foster (called Mr. by virtue of his office) was but half a sailor, 
having always been short voyages, and remained at home a 
long time between them. His father was a man of some 
property, and intended to have given his son a liberal educa- 
tion; but he, being idle and worthless, was sent off to sea, 
and succeeded no better there ; for, unlike many scamps, he 



TROUBLE ON BOARD 21 

had none of the quaUties of a sailor — he was "not of the stuff 
that they make sailors of." He used to hold long yarns with 
the crew, and talk against the captain, and play with the boys, 
and relax discipline in every way. This kind of conduct al- 
ways makes the captain suspicious, and is never pleasant, in 
the end, to the men ; they preferring to have an officer active, 
vigilant, and distant as may be with kindness. Among other 
bad practices, he frequently slept on his watch, and, having 
been discovered asleep by the captain, he was told that he 
would be turned off duty if he did it again. To prevent his 
sleeping on deck, the hen-coops were ordered to be knocked 
up, for the captain never sat down on deck himself, and never 
permitted an officer to do so. 

The second night after crossing the equator, we had the 
watch from eight till twelve, and it was "my helm" for the 
last two hours. There had been light squalls through the 
night, and the captain told Mr. Foster, who commanded our 
watch, to keep a bright lookout. Soon after I came to the 
helm, I found that he was quite drowsy, and at last he stretched 
himself on the companion and went fast asleep. Soon after- 
wards the captain came softly on deck, and stood by me for 
some time, looking at the compass. The officer at length be- 
came aware of the captain's presence, but, pretending not to 
know it, began humming and whistling to himself, to show 
that he was not asleep, and went forward, without looking be- 
hind him, and ordered the main royal to be loosed. On turn- 
ing round to come aft, he pretended surprise at seeing the 
master on deck. This would not do. The captain was too 
"wide awake," for him, and, beginning upon him at once, gave 
him a grand blow-up, in true nautical style : " You're a lazy, 
good-for-nothing rascal ; you're neither man, boy, soger, nor 
sailor ! you're no more than a thing aboard a vessel ! you don't 
earn your salt! you're worse than a Mahon soger!" and still 
more choice extracts from the sailor's vocabulary. After the 
poor fellow had taken this harangue, he was sent into his state- 
room, and the captain stood the rest of the watch himself. 



22 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

At seven bells in the morning, all hands were called aft, 
and told that Foster was no longer an officer on board, and 
that we might choose one of our own number for second mate. 
It is not uncommon for the captain to make this offer, and it 
is good policy, for the crew think themselves the choosers, and 
are flattered by it, but have to obey, nevertheless. Our crew, 
as is usual, refused to take the responsibility of choosing a man 
of whom we would never be able to complain, and left it to the 
captain. He picked out an active and intelligent young sailor, 
born on the banks of the Kennebec, who had been several 
Canton voyages, and proclaimed him in the following manner: 
"I choose Jim Hall; he's your second mate. All you've got 
to do is, to obey him as you would me ; and remember that he 
is Mr. Hall." Foster went forward into the forecastle as a 
common sailor, and lost the handle to his name, while young 
fore-mast Jim became Mr. Hall, and took up his quarters in 
the land of knives and forks and tea-cups. 

Sunday, October ^th. It was our morning watch ; when, 
soon after the day began to break, a man on the forecastle 
called out, "Land ho!" I had never heard the cry before, 
and did not know what it meant (and few would suspect what 
the words were, when hearing the strange sound for the first 
time) ; but I s.oon found, by the direction of all eyes, that 
there was land stretching along on our weather beam. We 
immediately took in studding-sails and hauled our wind, run- 
ning in for the land. This was done to determine our longitude ; 
for by the captain's chronometer we were in 25° W., but by 
his observations we were much farther ; and he had been for 
some time in doubt whether it was his chronometer or his 
sextant which was out of order. This land-fall settled the 
matter, and the former instrument was condemned, and, be- 
coming still worse, was never afterwards used. 

As we ran in towards the coast, we found that we were 
directly off the port of Pernambuco, and could see with the 
telescope the roofs of the houses, and one large church, and 
the town of Olinda. We ran along by the mouth of the har- 



A PAMPERO 23 

hour, and saw a full-rigged brig going in. At two p.m. we again 
stood out to sea, leaving the land on our quarter, and at sun- 
down it was out of sight. It was here that I first saw one of 
those singular things called catamarans. They are composed 
of logs lashed together upon the water, the men sitting with 
their feet in the water ; have one large sail, are quite fast, and, 
strange as it may seem, are trusted as good sea boats. We 
saw several, with from one to three men in each, boldly put- 
ting out to sea, after it had become almost dark. The Indians 
go out in them after fish, and as the weather is regular in cer- 
tain seasons, they have no fear. After taking a new departure 
from Olinda, we kept off on our way to Cape Horn. 

We met with nothing remarkable until we were in the 
latitude of the river La Plata. Here there are violent gales 
from the southwest, called Pamperos, which are very destruc- 
tive to the shipping in the river, and are felt for many leagues 
at sea. They are usually preceded by lightning. The cap- 
tain told the mates to keep a bright lookout, and if they saw 
lightning at the southwest, to take in sail at once. We got 
the first touch of one during my watch on deck. I was walk- 
ing in the lee gangway, and thought that I saw lightning on 
the lee bow. I told the second mate, who came over and 
looked out for some time. It was very black in the south- 
west, and in about ten minutes we saw a distinct flash. The 
wind, which had been southeast, had now left us, and it was 
dead calm. We sprang aloft immediately and furled the 
royals and top-gallant-sails, and took in the flying jib, hauled 
up the mainsail and trysail, squared the after yards, and 
awaited the attack. A huge mist capped with black clouds 
came driving towards us, extending over that portion of the 
horizon, and covering the stars, which shone brightly in the 
other part of the heavens. It came upon us at once with a 
blast, and a shower of hail and rain, which almost took our 
breath from us. The hardiest was obliged to turn his back. 
We let the halyards run, and fortunately were not taken aback. 
The little vessel " paid off " from the wind, and ran on for some 



24 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

time directly before it, tearing through the water with every- 
thing flying. Having called all hands, we close-reefed the top- 
sails and trysail, furled the courses and jib, set the fore-topmast 
staysail, and brought her up nearly to her course, with the 
weather braces hauled in a little, to ease her. 

This was the first blow I had met, which could really be 
called a gale. We had reefed our topsails in the Gulf Stream, 
and I thought it something serious, but an older sailor would 
have thought nothing of it. As I had now become used to 
the vessel and to my duty, I was of some service on a yard, 
and could knot my reef-point as well as anybody. I obeyed 
the order to lay ^ aloft with the rest, and found the reefing a 
very exciting scene ; for one watch reefed the fore-topsail, and 
the other the main, and every one did his utmost to get his 
topsail hoisted first. We had a great advantage over the lar- 
board watch, because the chief mate never goes aloft, while 
our new second mate used to jump into the rigging as soon as 
we began to haul out the reef-tackle, and have the weather 
earing passed before there was a man upon the yard. In this 
way we were almost always able to raise the cry of " Haul out to 
leeward " before them ; and, having knotted our points, would 
slide down the shrouds and back-stays, and sing out at the 
topsail halyards, to let it be known that we were ahead of 
them. Reefing is the most exciting part of a sailor's duty. 
All hands are engaged upon it, and after the halyards are let 
go, there is no time to be lost, — no ^'sogering," or hanging 
back, then. If one is not quick enough, another runs over 
him. The first on the yard goes to the weather earing, the 
second to the lee, and the next two to the " dog's ears " ; 
while the others lay along into the bunt, just giving each 
other elbow-room. In reefing, the yard-arms (the extremes of 

I This word " lay," which is in such general use on board ship, being used in 
giving orders instead of " go," as " Lay forward ! " " Lay aft ! " " Lay aloft ! " 
etc., I do not understand to be the neuter verb lie, mispronounced, but to be the 
active verb lay, with the objective case understood; as, "Lay yourselves for- 
ward ! " " Lay yourselves aft ! " etc. At all events, lay is an active verb at sea, 
and means go. 



CAPE HORN 25 

the yards) are the posts of honour; but in furhng, the strongest 
and most experienced stand in the slings (or middle of the 
yard) to make up the bunt. If the second mate is a smart 
fellow, he will never let any one take either of these posts 
from him ; but if he is wanting either in seamanship, strength, 
or activity, some better man will get the bunt and earings from 
him, which immediately brings him into disrepute. 

We remained for the rest of the night, and throughout the 
next day, under the same close sail, for it continued to blow 
very fresh ; and though we had no more hail, yet there was a 
soaking rain, and it was quite cold and uncomfortable ; the 
more so, because we were not prepared for cold weather, but 
had on our thin clothes. We were glad to get a watch below, 
and put on our thick clothing, boots, and southwesters. 
Towards sundown the gale moderated a little, and it 
began to clear off in the southwest. We shook our reefs 
out, one by one, and before midnight had top-gallant sails 
upon her. 

We had now made up our minds for Cape Horn and cold 
weather, and entered upon the necessary preparations. 

Tuesday^ November ^th. At daybreak, saw land upon our 
larboard quarter. There were two islands, of different size, 
but of the same shape ; rather high, beginning low at the 
water's edge and running with a curved ascent to the middle. 
They were so far off as to be of a deep blue colour, and in a few 
hours we sank them in the northeast. These were the Falk- 
land Islands. We had run between them and the main land 
of Patagonia. At sunset, the second mate, who was at the 
mast-head, said that he saw land on the starboard bow. This 
must have been the island of Staten Land ; and we were now 
in the region of Gape Horn, with a fine breeze from the north- 
ward, topmast and top-gallant studding-sails set, and every 
prospect of a speedy and pleasant passage round. 



CHAPTER V 

WEDNESDAY, November ^th. The weather was 
fine during the previous night, and we had a clear 
view of the Magellan Clouds and of the Southern 
Cross. The Magellan Clouds consist of three small nebulae in 
the southern part of the heavens, — two bright, like the milky- 
way, and one dark. They are first seen, just above the horizon, 
soon after crossing the southern tropic. The Southern Cross 
begins to be seen at i8° N., and, when off Cape Horn, is 
nearly overhead. It is composed of four stars in that form, 
and is one of the brightest constellations in the heavens. 

During the first part of this day (Wednesday) the wind 
was light, but after noon it came on fresh, and we furled the 
royals. We still kept the studding-sails out, and the captain 
said he should go round with them if he could. Just before 
eight o'clock (then about sundown, in that latitude) the cry 
of "All hands ahoy ! " was sounded down the fore scuttle and 
the after hatchway, and, hurrying upon deck, we found a large 
black cloud rolling on toward us from the southwest, and 
darkening the whole heavens. " Here comes Cape Horn ! " 
said the chief mate ; and we had hardly time to haul down 
and clew up before it was upon us. In a few minutes a 
heavier sea was raised than I had ever seen, and as it was 
directly ahead, the little brig, which was no better than a 
bathing-machine, plunged into it, and all the forward part of 
her was under water ; the sea pouring in through the bow- 
ports and hawse-holes and over the knight-heads, threatening 
to wash everything overboard. In the lee scuppers it was up 
to a man's waist. We sprang aloft and double-reefed the top- 
sails, and furled the other sails, and made all snug. But this 
would not do ; the brig was labouring and straining against the 

26 



CAPE HORN 27 

head sea, and the gale was growing worse and worse. At the 
same time sleet and hail were driving with all fury against us. 
We clewed down, and hauled out the reef-tackles again, and 
close-reefed the fore-topsail, and furled the main, and hove her 
to, on the starboard tack. Here was an end to our fine pros- 
pects. We made up our minds to head winds and cold 
weather ; sent down the royal yards, and unrove the gear ; 
but all the rest of the top hamper remained aloft, even to 
the sky-sail masts and studding-sail booms. 

Throughout the night it stormed violently, — rain, hail, 
snow, and sleet beating upon the vessel, — the wind continu- 
ing ahead, and the sea running high. At daybreak (about 
three a.m.) the deck was covered with snow. The captain 
sent up the steward with a glass of grog to each of the 
watch ; and all the time that we were off the Cape, grog was 
given to the morning watch, and to all hands whenever we 
reefed topsails. The clouds cleared away at sunrise, and, the 
wind becoming more fair, we again made sail and stood nearly 
up to our course. 

Thitrsdayy November 6th. It continued more pleasant 
through the first part of the day, but at night we had the 
same scene over again. This time we did not heave to, as 
on the night before, but endeavoured to beat to windward 
under closed-reefed topsails, balance-reefed trysail, and fore 
top-mast staysail. This night it was my turn to steer, or, as 
the sailors say, my trick at the helm, for two hours. Inexpe- 
rienced as I was, I made out to steer to the satisfaction of the 
officer, and neither Stimson nor I gave up our tricks, all the 
time that we were off the Cape. This was something to boast 
of, for it requires a good deal of skill and watchfulness to steer 
a vessel close hauled, in a gale of wind, against a heavy head 
sea. "Ease her when she pitches," is the word; and a little 
carelessness in letting her ship a heavy sea might sweep the 
decks, or take a mast out of her. 

Friday, November yth. Towards morning the wind went 
down, and during the whole forenoon we lay tossing about in 



28 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

a dead calm, and in the midst of a thick fog. The calms here 
are unlike those in most parts of the world, for here there is 
generally so high a sea running, with periods of calm so short 
that it has no time to go down ; and vessels, being under no 
command of sails or rudder, lie like logs upon the water. We 
were obliged to steady the booms and yards by guys and braces, 
and to lash everything well below. We now found our top 
hamper of some use, for though it is liable to be carried away 
or sprung by the sudden "bringing up" of a vessel when 
pitching in a chopping sea, yet it is a great help in steadying 
a vessel when rolling in a long swell, — giving more slowness, 
ease, and regularity to the motion. 

The calm of the morning reminds me of a scene which I 
forgot to describe at the time of its occurrence, but which 
I remember from its being the first time that I had heard the 
near breathing of whales. It was on the night that we passed 
between the Falkland Islands and Staten Land. We had the 
watch from twelve to four, and, coming upon deck, found the 
little brig lying perfectly still, enclosed in a thick fog, and the 
sea as smooth as though oil had been poured upon it ; yet now 
and then a long, low swell rolling under its surface, slightly 
lifting the vessel, but without breaking the glassy smoothness 
of the water. We were surrounded far and near by shoals of 
sluggish whales and grampuses, which the fog prevented our 
seeing, rising slowly to the surface, or perhaps lying out at 
length, heaving out those lazy, deep, and long-drawn breath- 
ings which give such an impression of supineness and strength. 
Some of the watch were asleep, and the others were quiet, so 
that there was nothing to break the illusion, and I stood lean- 
ing over the bulwarks, listening to the slow breathings of the 
mighty creatures, — now one breaking the water just along- 
side, whose black body I almost fancied that I could see 
through the fog ; and again another, which I could just hear 
in the distance, — until the low and regular swell seemed like 
the heaving of the ocean's mighty bosom to the sound of its 
own heavy and long-drawn respirations. 



CAPE HORN 29 

Towards the evening of this day (Friday, 7th) the fog 
cleared off, and we had every appearance of a cold blow ; and 
soon after sundown it came on. Again it was clew up and 
haul down, reef and furl, until we had got her down to close- 
reefed topsails, double-reefed trysail, and reefed fore spenser. 
Snow, hail, and sleet were driving upon us most of the night, 
and the sea was breaking over the bows and covering the for- 
ward part of the little vessel ; but, as she would lay her course, 
the captain refused to heave her to. 

Saturday^ November 8th. This day began with calm and 
thick fog, and ended with hail, snow, a violent wind, and close- 
reefed topsails. 

Sunday, November gth. To-day the sun rose clear and 
continued so until twelve o'clock, when the captain got an ob- 
servation. This was very well for Cape Horn, and we thought 
it a little remarkable that, as we had not had one unpleasant 
Sunday during the whole voyage, the only tolerable day here 
should be a Sunday. We got time to clear up the steerage 
and forecastle, and set things to rights, and to overhaul our 
wet clothes a little. But this did not last very long. Between 
five and six — the sun was then nearly three hours high — the 
cry of "All Starbowlines ^ ahoy!" summoned our watch on 
deck, and immediately all hands were called. A true speci- 
men of Cape Horn was coming upon us. A great cloud, of a 
dark slate-colour, was driving on us from the southwest ; and 
we did our best to take in sail (for the light sails had been set 
during the first part of the day) before we were in the midst 
of it. We had got the light sails furled, the courses hauled 
up, and the topsail reef-tackles hauled out, and were just 
mounting the fore-rigging when the storm struck us. In an 
instant the sea, which had been comparatively quiet, was run- 
ning higher and higher; and it became almost as dark as 
night. The hail and sleet were harder than I had yet felt 
them ; seeming almost to pin us down to the rigging. We 
were longer taking in sail than ever before ; for the sails were 

I It is the fashion to call the respective watches Starbowlines and Larbowlines. 



30 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Stiff and wet, the ropes and rigging covered with snow and 
sleet, and we ourselves cold and nearly blinded with the vio- 
lence of the storm. By the time we had got down upon deck 
again, the little brig was plunging madly into a tremendous 
head sea, which at every drive rushed in through the bow- 
ports and over the bows, and buried all the forward part of 
the vessel. At this instant the chief mate, who was standing 
on the top of the windlass, at the foot of the spenser-mast, 
called out, ''Lay out there and furl the jib!" This was no 
agreeable or safe duty, yet it must be done. John, a Swede 
(the best sailor on board), who belonged on the forecastle, 
sprang out upon the bowsprit. Another one must go. It 
was a clear case of holding back. I was near the mate, but 
sprang past several, threw the downhaul over the windlass, 
and jumped between the knight-heads out upon the bowsprit. 
The crew stood abaft the windlass and hauled the jib down, 
while John and I got out upon the weather side of the jib- 
boom, our feet on the foot-ropes, holding on by the spar, the 
great jib flying off to leeward and slatting so as almost to 
throw us off the boom. For some time we could do nothing 
but hold on, and the vessel, diving into two huge seas, one 
after the other, plunged us twice into the water up to our 
chins. We hardly knew whether we were on or off ; when, 
the boom lifting us up dripping from the water, we were raised 
high into the air and then plunged below again. John thought 
the boom would go every moment, and called out to the mate 
to keep the vessel off, and haul down the staysail ; but the 
fury of the wind and the breaking of the seas against the bows 
defied every attempt to make ourselves heard, and we were 
obliged to do the best we could in our situation. Fortunately 
no other seas so heavy struck her, and we succeeded in furling 
the jib ''after a fashion"; and, coming in over the staysail 
nettings, were not a little pleased to find that all was snug, 
and the watch gone below ; for we were soaked through, 
and it was very cold. John admitted that it had been 
a post of danger, which good sailors seldom do when the 



CAPE HORN 31 

thing is over. The weather continued nearly the same 
through the night. 

Monday^ November loth. During a part of this day we 
were hove to, but the rest of the time were driving on, under 
close-reefed sails, with a heavy sea, a strong gale, and frequent 
squalls of hail and snow. 

Tuesday y November nth. The same. 

Wednesday. The same. 

Thursday. The same. 

We had now got hardened to Cape weather, the vessel was 
under reduced sail, and everything secured on deck and below, 
so that we had little to do but to steer and to stand our watch. 
Our clothes were all wet through, and the only change was from 
wet to more wet. There is no fire in the forecastle, and we 
can not dry clothes at the galley. It was in vain to think of 
reading or working below, for we were too tired, the hatch- 
ways were closed down, and everything was wet and uncom- 
fortable, black and dirty, heaving and pitching. We had only 
to come below when the watch was out, wring our wet clothes, 
hang them up to chafe against the bulkheads, and turn in and 
sleep as soundly as we could, until our watch was called again. 
A sailor can sleep anywhere, — no sound of wind, water, can- 
vas, rope, wood, or iron can keep him awake, — and we were 
always fast asleep when three blows on the hatchway, and the 
unwelcome cry of "All Starbowlines ahoy! eight bells there 
below ! do you hear the news } " (the usual formula of calling 
the watch) roused us up from our berths upon the cold, wet 
decks. The only time when we could be said to take any 
pleasure was at night and morning, when we were allowed a tin 
pot full of hot tea (or, as the sailors significantly call it, " water 
bewitched ") sweetened with molasses. This, bad as it was, 
was still warm and comforting, and, together with our sea 
biscuit and cold salt beef, made a meal. Yet even this meal 
was attended with some uncertainty. We had to go ourselves 
to the galley and take our kid of beef and tin pots of tea, and 
run the risk of losing them before we could get below. Many 



:>- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 



a kid of beef have I seen rolling in the scuppers, and the 
bearer lying at his length on the decks. I remember an Eng- 
lish lad who was the life of the crew — whom we afterwards 
lost overboard — standing for nearly ten minutes at the galley, 
with his pot of tea in his hand, waiting for a chance to get 
down into the forecastle ; and, seeing what he thought was a 
'' smooth spell," started to go forward. He had just got to 
the end of the windlass, when a great sea broke over the bows, 
and for a moment I saw nothing of him but his head and 
shoulders ; and at the next instant, being taken off his legs, 
he was carried aft with the sea, until her stern lifting up, and 
sending the water forward, he was left high and dry at the 
side of the long-boat, still holding on to his tin pot, which had 
now nothing in it but salt water. But nothing could ever daunt 
him, or overcome, for a moment, his habitual good-humour. Re- 
gaining his legs, and shaking his fist at the man at the wheel, 
he rolled below, saying, as he passed, **A man's no sailor, if 
he can't take a joke." The ducking was not the worst of such 
an affair, for, as there was an allowance of tea, you could get 
no more from the galley : and though the others would never 
suffer a man to go without, but would always turn in a little 
from their own pots to fill up his, yet this was at best but 
dividing the loss among all hands. 

Something of the same kind befell me a few days after. 
The cook had just made for us a mess of hot '' scouse," — that 
is, biscuit pounded fine, salt beef cut into small pieces, and a 
few potatoes, boiled up together and seasoned with pepper. 
This was a rare treat, and I, being the last at the galley, had 
it put in my charge to carry down for the mess. I got along 
very well as far as the hatchway, and was just going down the 
steps, when a heavy sea, lifting the stern out of water, and, 
passing forward, dropping it again, threw the steps from their 
place, and I came down into the steerage a little faster than I 
meant to, with the kid on top of me, and the whole precious 
mess scattered over the floor. Whatever your feelings may 
be, you must make a joke of everything at sea; and if you 



A VISIT 33 

were to fall from aloft and be caught in the belly of a sail, and 
thus be saved from instant death, it would not do to look at all 
disturbed, or to treat it as a serious matter. 

Friday, November 14th. We were now well to the west- 
ward of the Cape, and were changing our course to northward 
as much as we dared, since the strong southwest winds, which 
prevailed then, carried us in towards Patagonia. At two p.m. 
we saw a sail on our larboard beam, and at four we made it out 
to be a large ship, steering our course, under single-reefed top- 
sails. We at that time had shaken the reefs out of our top- 
sails, as the wind was lighter, and set the main top-gallant 
sail. As soon as our captain saw what sail she was under, he 
set the fore top-gallant sail and flying jib ; and the old whaler 
— for such his boats and short sail showed him to be — felt a 
little ashamed, and shook the reefs out of his topsails, but 
could do no more, for he had sent down his top-gallant masts 
off the Cape. He ran down for us, and answered our hail as 
the whale-ship New England, of Poughkeepsie, one hundred 
and twenty days from New York. Our captain gave our name, 
and added, ninety-two days from Boston. They then had a 
little conversation about longitude, in which they found that 
they could not agree. The ship fell astern, and continued in 
sight during the night. Toward morning, the wind having 
become light, we crossed our royal and skysail yards, and at 
daylight we were seen under a cloud of sail, having royals and 
skysails fore and aft. The ''spouter," as the sailors call a 
whaleman, had sent up his main top-gallant mast and set the 
sail, and made signal for us to heave to. About half past 
seven their whale-boat came alongside, and Captain Job Terry 
sprang on board, a man known in every port and by every 
vessel in the Pacific Ocean. '^ Don't you know Job Terry } 
I thought everybody knew Job Terry," said a green hand, 
who came in the boat, to me, when I asked him about his 
captain. He was indeed a singular man. He was six feet 
high, wore thick cowhide boots, and brown coat and trousers, 
and, except a sunburnt complexion, had not the slightest ap- 



34 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

pearance of a sailor ; yet he had been forty years in the whale- 
trade, and, as he said himself, had owned ships, built ships, 
and sailed ships. His boat's crew were a pretty raw set, just 
out of the bush, and, as the sailor's phrase is, ** hadn't got the 
hayseed out of their hair." Captain Terry convinced our cap- 
tain that our reckoning was a little out, and, having spent the 
day on board, put off in his boat at sunset for his ship, which 
was now six or eight miles astern. He began a "yarn" 
when he came aboard, which lasted, with but little intermis- 
sion, for four hours. It was all about himself, and the Peru- 
vian government, and the Dublin frigate, and her captain, 
Lord James Townshend, and President Jackson, and the ship 
Ann M'Kim, of Baltimore. It would probably never have 
come to an end, had not a good breeze sprung up, which sent 
him off to his own vessel. One of the lads who came in his 
boat, a thoroughly countrified-looking fellow, seemed to care 
very little about the vessel, rigging, or anything else, but went 
round looking at the live stock, and leaned over the pigsty, 
and said he wished he was back again tending his father's 
pigs. 

A curious case of dignity occurred here. It seems that in a 
whale-ship there is an intermediate class, called boat-steerers. 
One of them came in Captain Terry's boat, but we thought he 
was cockswain of the boat, and a cockswain is only a sailor. 
In the whaler, the boat-steerers are between the officers and 
crew, a sort of petty officer ; keep by themselves in the waist, 
sleep amidship, and eat by themselves, either at a separate 
table, or at the cabin table, after the captain and mates are 
done. Of all this hierarchy we were entirely ignorant, so the 
poor boat-steerer was left to himself. The second mate would 
not notice him, and seemed surprised at his keeping amidships, 
but his pride of office would not allow him to go forward. 
With dinner-time came the experimentum crucis. What would 
he do ? The second mate went to the second table without 
asking him. There was nothing for him but famine or humil- 
iation. We asked him into the forecastle, but he faintly de- 



ALBATROSSES 35 

clined. The whale-boat's crew explained it to us, and we 
asked him again. Hunger got the victory over pride of rank, 
and his boat-steering majesty had to take his grub out of our 
kid, and eat with his jack-knife. Yet the man was ill at ease 
all the time, was sparing of his conversation, and kept up the 
notion of a condescension under stress of circumstances. One 
would say that, instead of a tendency to equality in human 
beings, the tendency is to make the most of inequalities, nat- 
ural or artificial. 

At eight o'clock we altered our course to the northward, 
bound for Juan Fernandez. 

This day we saw the last of the albatrosses, which had 
been our companions a great part of the time off the Cape. 
I had been interested in the bird from descriptions, and Cole- 
ridge's poem, and was not at all disappointed. We caught 
one or two with a baited hook which we floated astern upon a 
shingle. Their long, flapping wings, long legs, and large, 
staring eyes, give them a very peculiar appearance. They 
look well on the wing ; but one of the finest sights that I have 
ever seen was an albatross asleep upon the water, during a 
calm, off Cape Horn, when a heavy sea was running. There 
being no breeze, the surface of the water was unbroken, but a 
long, heavy swell was rolling, and we saw the fellow, all white, 
directly ahead of us, asleep upon the waves, with his head 
under his wing ; now rising on the top of one of the big bil- 
lows, and then falling slowly until he was lost in the hollow 
between. He was undisturbed for some time, until the noise 
of our bows, gradually approaching, roused him, when, lifting 
his head, he stared upon us for a moment, and then spread his 
wide wings and took his flight. 



M 



CHAPTER VI 

ONDAY, November igth. This was a black day in 
our calendar. At seven o'clock in the morning, it 
being our watch below, we were aroused from a sound 
sleep by the cry of **A11 hands ahoy! a man overboard!" 
This unwonted cry sent a thrill through the heart of every 
one, and, hurrying on deck, we found the vessel hove flat 
aback, with all her studding-sails set ; for, the boy who was at 
the helm leaving it to throw something overboard, the carpen- 
ter, who was an old sailor, knowing that the wind was light, 
put the helm down and hove her aback. The watch on deck 
were lowering away the quarter-boat, and I got on deck just in 
time to fling myself into her as she was leaving the side ; but 
it was not until out upon the wide Pacific, in our little boat, 
that I knew whom we had lost. It was George Ballmer, the 
young English sailor, whom I have before spoken of as the 
life of the crew. He was prized by the officers as an active 
and willing seaman, and by the men as a lively, hearty fellow, 
and a good shipmate. He was going aloft to fit a strap round 
the main topmast-head, for ringtail halyards, and had the strap 
and block, a coil of halyards, and a marline-spike about his 
neck. He fell from the starboard futtock shrouds, and, not 
knowing how to swim, and being heavily dressed, with all 
those things round his neck, he probably sank immediately. 
We pulled astern, in the direction in which he fell, and though 
we knew that there was no hope of saving him, yet no one 
wished to speak of returning, and we rowed about for nearly 
an hour, without an idea of doing anything, but unwilling 
to acknowledge to ourselves that we must give him up. 
At length we turned the boat's head and made towards 
the brig. 

36 



LOSS OF A MAN 37 

Death is at all times solemn, but never so much so as at 
sea. A man dies on shore ; his body remains with his friends, 
and "the mourners go about the streets"; but when a man 
falls overboard at sea and is lost, there is a suddenness in the 
event, and a difficulty in realizing it, which give to it an air of 
awful mystery. A man dies on shore, — you follow his body 
to the grave, and a stone marks the spot. You are often pre- 
pared for the event. There is always something which helps 
you to realize it when it happens, and to recall it when it has 
passed. A man is shot down by your side in battle, and the 
mangled body remains an object, and a real evidence ; but at 
sea, the man is near you, — at your side, — you hear his voice, 
and in an instant he is gone, and nothing but a vacancy shows 
his loss. Then, too, at sea — to use a homely but expressive 
phrase — you miss a man so much. A dozen men are shut up 
together in a little bark upon the wide, wide sea, and for 
months and months see no forms and hear no voices but their 
own, and one is taken suddenly from among them, and they 
miss him at every turn. It is like losing a limb. There are 
no new faces or new scenes to fill up the gap. There is 
always an empty berth in the forecastle, and one man wanting 
when the small night-watch is mustered. There is one less to 
take the wheel, and one less to lay out with you upon the 
yard. You miss his form, and the sound of his voice, for 
habit had made them almost necessary to you, and each of 
your senses feels the loss. 

All these things make such a death peculiarly solemn, and 
the effect of it remains upon the crew for some time. There 
is more kindness shown by the officers to the crew, and by 
the crew to one another. There is more quietness and 
seriousness. The oath and the loud laugh are gone. The 
officers are more watchful, and the crew go more carefully 
aloft. The lost man is seldom mentioned, or is dismissed 
with a sailor's rude eulogy, — " Well, poor George is gone ! 
His cruise is up soon ! He knew his work, and did his duty, 
and was a good shipmate." Then usually follows some allu- 



38 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

sion to another world, for sailors are almost all believers, in 
their way ; though their notions and opinions are unfixed and 
at loose ends. They say, " God won't be hard upon the poor 
fellow," and seldom get beyond the common phrase which 
seems to imply that their sufferings and hard treatment here 
will be passed to their credit in the books of the great Captain 
hereafter, — ''To work hard, live hard, die hard, and go to 
hell after all, would be hard indeed ! " Our cook, a simple- 
hearted old African, who had been through a good deal in his 
day, and was rather seriously inclined, always going to church 
twice a day when on shore, and reading his Bible on Sunday 
in the galley, talked to the crew about spending the Lord's 
days badly, and told them that they might go as suddenly as 
George had, and be as little prepared. 

Yet a sailor's life is at best but a mixture of a little good 
with much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The 
beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the 
commonplace, and the solemn with the ludicrous. 

Not long after we had returned on board with our sad 
report, an auction was held of the poor man's effects. The 
captain had first, however, called all hands aft and asked them 
if they were satisfied that everything had been done to save 
the man, and if they thought there was any use in remaining 
there longer. The crew all said that it was in vain, for the 
man did not know how to swim, and was very heavily dressed. 
So we then filled away and kept the brig off to her course. 

The laws regulating navigation make the captain answer- 
able for the effects of a sailor who dies during the voyage, and 
it is either a law or a custom, established for convenience, that 
the captain should soon hold an auction of his things, in which 
they are bid off by the sailors, and the sums which they give 
are deducted from their wages at the end of the voyage. In 
this way the trouble and risk of keeping his things through 
the voyage are avoided, and the clothes are usually sold for 
more than the}' would be worth on shore. Accordingly, we 
had no sooner got the ship before the wind, than his chest 



LOSS OF A MAN 39 

was brought up upon the forecastle, and the sale began. The 
jackets and trousers in which we had seen him dressed so 
lately were exposed and bid off while the life was hardly out 
of his body, and his chest was taken aft and used as a store- 
chest, so that there was nothing left which could be called his. 
Sailors have an unwillingness to wear a dead man's clothes 
during the same voyage, and they seldom do so, unless they 
are in absolute want. 

As is usual after a death, many stories were told about 
George. Some had heard him say that he repented never 
having learned to swim, and that he knew that he should meet 
his death by drowning. Another said that he never knew any 
good to come of a voyage made against the will, and the de- 
ceased man shipped and spent his advance, and was afterwards 
very unwilling to go, but, not being able to refund, was obliged 
to sail with us. A boy, too, who had become quite attached 
to him, said that George talked to him, during most of the 
watch on the night before, about his mother and family at 
home, and this was the first time that he had mentioned the 
subject during the voyage. 

The night after this event, when I went to the galley to 
get a light, I found the cook inclined to be talkative, so I sat 
down on the spars, and gave him an opportunity to hold a 
yarn. I was the more inclined to do so, as I found that he 
was full of the superstitions once more common among sea- 
men, and which the recent death had waked up in his mind. 
He talked about George's having spoken of his friends, and 
said he believed few men died without having a warning of it, 
which he supported by a great many stories of dreams, and of 
unusual behaviour of men before death. From this he went on 
to other superstitions, the Flying Dutchman, etc., and talked 
rather mysteriously, having something evidently on his mind. 
At length he put his head out of the galley and looked care- 
fully about to see if any one was within hearing, and, being 
satisfied on that point, asked me in a low tone, — 

" I say ! you know what countryman 'e carpenter be ? " 



40 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

"Yes," said I ; "he 's a German." 

"What kmd of a German ? " said the cook. 

" He belongs to Bremen," said I. 

"Are you sure o* dat ? " said he. 

I satisfied him on that point by saying that he could speak 
no language but the German and English. 

"I'm plaguy glad o' dat," said the cook. "I was mighty 
'fraid he was a Fin. I tell you what, I been plaguy civil to 
that man all the voyage." 

I asked him the reason of this, and found that he was fully 
possessed with the notion that Fins are wizards, and especially 
have power over winds and storms. I tried to reason with 
him about it, but he had the best of all arguments, that from 
experience, at hand, and was not to be moved. He had been 
to the Sandwich Islands in a vessel in which the sail-maker 
was a Fin, and could do anything he was of a mind to. This 
sail-maker kept a junk bottle in his berth, which was always 
just half full of rum, though he got drunk upon it nearly every 
day. He had seen him sit for hours together, talking to this 
bottle, which he stood up before him on the table. The same 
man cut his throat in his berth, and everybody said he was 
possessed. 

He had heard of ships, too, beating up the gulf of Finland 
against a head wind, and having a ship heave in sight astern, 
overhaul, and pass them, with as fair a wind as could blow, 
and all studding-sails out, and find she was from Finland. 

" Oh, no ! " said he ; "I Ve seen too much o' dem men to 
want to see 'em 'board a ship. If dey can't have dare own 
way, they '11 play the d 1 with you." 

As I still doubted, he said he would leave it to John, who 
was the oldest seaman aboard, and would know, if anybody 
did. John, to be sure, was the oldest, and at the same time 
the most ignorant, man in the ship ; but I consented to have 
him called. The cook stated the matter to him, and John as, I 
anticipated, sided with the cook, and said that he himself had 
been in a ship where they had a head wind for a fortnight. 



SUPERSTITIONS 41 

and the captain found out at last that one of the men, with 
whom he had had some hard words a short time before, was a 
Fin, and immediately told him if he did n't stop the head wind 
he would shut him down in the fore peak. The Fin would 
not give in, and the captain shut him down in the fore peak, 
and would not give him anything to eat. The Fin held out 
for a day and a half, when he could not stand it any longer, 
and did something or other which brought the wind round 
again, and they let him up. 

"Dar," said the cook, "what you tink o' dat.?" 
I told him I had no doubt it was true, and that it would 
have been odd if the wind had not changed in fifteen days, 
Fin or no Fin. 

^^O," says he, *'go 'way! You tink, 'cause you been to 
college, you know better dan anybody. You know better dan 
dem as 'as seen it wid der own eyes. You wait till you 've 
been to sea as long as I have, and den you '11 know." 



CHAPTER VII 

WE continued sailing along with a fair wind and fine 
weather until — 
Tuesday y November 2^th, when at daylight we 
saw the island of Juan Fernandez directly ahead, rising like a 
deep blue cloud out of the sea. We were then probably nearly 
seventy miles from it ; and so high and so blue did it appear 
that I mistook it for a cloud resting over the island, and looked 
for the island under it, until it gradually turned to a deader 
and greener colour, and I could mark the inequalities upon its 
surface. At length we could distinguish trees and rocks ; and 
by the afternoon this beautiful island lay fairly before us, and 
we directed our course to the only harbour. Arriving at the 
entrance soon after sundown, we found a Chilian man-of-war 
brig, the only vessel, coming out. She hailed us ; and an 
officer on board, whom we supposed to be an American, ad- 
vised us to run in before night, and said that they were bound 
to Valparaiso. We ran immediately for the anchorage, but, 
owing to the winds which drew about the mountains and came 
to us in flaws from different points of the compass, we did not 
come to an anchor until nearly midnight. We had a boat 
ahead all the time that we were working in, and those aboard 
ship were continually bracing the yards about for every puff 
that struck us, until about twelve o'clock, when we came to in 
forty fathoms water, and our anchor struck bottom for the 
first time since we left Boston, — one hundred and three days. 
We were then divided into three watches, and thus stood out 
the remainder of the night. 

I was called on deck to stand my watch at about three in 
the morning, and I shall never forget the peculiar sensation 
which I experienced on finding myself once more surrounded 

42 



JUAN FERNANDEZ 43 

by land, feeling the night-breeze coming from off shore, and 
hearing the frogs and crickets. The mountains seemed almost 
to hang over us, and apparently from the very heart of them 
there came out, at regular intervals, a loud echoing sound, 
which affected me as hardly human. We saw no lights, and 
could hardly account for the sound, until the mate, who had 
been there before, told us that it was the ''Alerta" of the 
Chilian soldiers, who were stationed over some convicts con- 
fined in caves nearly half-way up the mountain. At the ex- 
piration of my watch, I went below, feeling not a little anxious 
for the day, that I might see more nearly, and perhaps tread 
upon, this romantic, I may almost say classic, island. 

When all hands were called it was nearly sunrise, and be- 
tween that time and breakfast, although quite busy on board 
in getting up water-casks, etc., I had a good view of the ob- 
jects about me. The harbour was nearly land-locked, and at 
the head of it was a landing, protected by a small breakwater 
of stones, upon which two large boats were hauled up, with a 
sentry standing over them. Near this was a variety of huts 
or cottages, nearly a hundred in number, the best of them 
built of mud or unburnt clay, and whitewashed, but the greater 
part Robinson Crusoe like, — only of posts and branches of 
trees. The governor's house, as it is called, was the most con- 
spicuous, being large, with grated windows, plastered walls, 
and roof of red tiles ; yet, like all the rest, only of one story. 
Near it was a small chapel, distinguished by a cross ; and a 
long, low, brown-looking building, surrounded by something 
like a palisade, from which an old and dingy-looking Chilian 
flag was flying. This, of course, was dignified by the title of 
Presidio. A sentinel was stationed at the chapel, another at 
the governor's house, and a few soldiers, armed with bayonets, 
looking rather ragged, with shoes out at the toes, were stroll- 
ing about among the houses, or waiting at the landing-place 
for our boat to come ashore. 

The mountains were high, but not so overhanging as they 
appeared to be by starlight. They seemed to bear off towards 



44 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the centre of the island, and were green and well wooded, with 
some large, and, I am told, exceedingly fertile valleys, with 
mule-tracks leading to different parts of the island. 

I can not here forget how Stimson and I got the laugh of 
the crew upon us by our eagerness to get on shore. The cap- 
tain having ordered the quarter-boat to be lowered, we both, 
thinking it was going ashore, sprang down into the forecastle, 
filled our jacket pockets with tobacco to barter with the 
people ashore, and, when the officer called for "four hands 
in the boat," nearly broke our necks in our haste to be 
first over the side, and had the pleasure of pulling ahead 
of the brig with a tow-line for half an hour, and coming on 
board again to be laughed at by the crew, who had seen our 
manoeuvre. 

After breakfast, the second mate was ordered ashore with 
five hands to fill the water-casks, and, to my joy, I was among 
the number. We pulled ashore with empty casks ; and here 
again fortune favoured me, for the water was too thick and 
muddy to be put into the casks, and the governor had sent 
men up to the head of the stream to clear it out for us, which 
gave us nearly two hours of leisure. This leisure we employed 
in wandering about among the houses, and eating a little fruit 
which was offered to us. Ground apples, melons, grapes, straw- 
berries of an enormous size, and cherries abound here. The 
latter are said to have been planted by Lord Anson. 
The soldiers were miserably clad, and asked with some inter- 
est whether we had shoes to sell on board. I doubt very much 
if they had the means of buying them. They were very eager 
to get tobacco, for which they gave shells, fruit, etc. Knives 
were also in demand, but we were forbidden by the governor 
to let any one have them, as he told us that all the people 
there, except the soldiers and a few officers, were convicts sent 
from Valparaiso, and that it was necessary to keep all weapons 
from their hands. The island, it seems, belongs to Chili, and 
had been used by the government as a penal colony for nearly 
two years ; and the governor, — an Englishman who had 



JUAN FERNANDEZ 45 

entered the Chilian navy, — with a priest, half a dozen task- 
masters, and a body of soldiers, were stationed there to keep 
them in order. This was no easy task ; and, only a few months 
before our arrival, a few of them had stolen a boat at night, 
boarded a brig lying in the harbour, sent the captain and crew 
ashore in their boat and gone off to sea. We were informed 
of this, and loaded our arms and kept strict watch on board 
through the night, and were careful not to let the convicts get 
our knives from us when on shore. The worst part of the 
convicts, I found, were locked up under sentry, in caves dug 
into the side of the mountain, nearly half way up, with mule- 
tracks leading to them, whence they were taken by day and 
set to work under taskmasters upon building an aqueduct, a 
wharf, and other public works ; while the rest lived in the 
houses which they put up for themselves, had their families 
with them, and seemed to me to be the laziest people on the 
face of the earth. They did nothing but take a paseo into 
the woods, a paseo among the houses, a paseo at the landing- 
place, looking at us and our vessel, and too lazy to speak fast ; 
while the others were driven about, at a rapid trot, in single 
file, with burdens on their shoulders, and followed up by their 
taskmasters, with long rods in their hands and broad-brimmed 
straw hats upon their heads. Upon what precise grounds this 
great distinction was made, I do not know, and I could not 
very well know, for the governor was the only man who spoke 
English upon the island, and he was out of my walk, for I was 
a sailor ashore as well as on board. 

Having filled our casks we returned on board, and soon 
after, the governor dressed in a uniform like that of an Ameri- 
can militia officer, the Padre, in the dress of the gray friars, 
with hood and all complete and the Capitan, with big whiskers 
and dirty regimentals, came on board to dine. While at dinner 
a large ship appeared in the offing, and soon afterwards we 
saw a light whaleboat pulling into the harbour. The ship lay 
off and on, and a boat came alongside of us, and put on board 
the captain, a plain young Quaker, dressed all in brown. The 



46 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ship was the Cortes, whaleman, of New Bedford, and had put 
in to see if there were any vessels from round the Horn, and 
to hear the latest news from America. They remained aboard 
a short time, and had a little talk with the crew, when they 
left us and pulled off to their ship, which, having filled away, 
was soon out of sight. 

A small boat which came from the shore to take away the 
governor and suite — as they styled themselves — brought, 
as a present to the crew, a large pail of milk, a few shells, and 
a block of sandal-wood. The milk, which was the first we 
had tasted since leaving Boston, we soon despatched ; a piece 
of the sandal-wood I obtained, and learned that it grew on the 
hills in the centre of the island. I regretted that I did not 
bring away other specimens ; but what I had — the piece of 
sandal-wood, and a small flower which I plucked and brought 
on board in the crown of my tarpaulin, and carefully pressed 
between the leaves of a volume of Cowper's Letters — were 
lost, with my chest and its contents, by another's negligence, 
on our arrival home. 

About an hour before sundown, having stowed our water- 
casks, we began getting under way, and were not a little while 
about it ; for we were in thirty fathoms water, and in one of 
the gusts which came from off shore had let go our other bow 
anchor ; and as the southerly wind draws round the mountains 
and comes off in uncertain flaws, we were continually swing- 
ing round, and had thus got a very foul hawse. We hove in 
upon our chain, and after stoppering and unshackling it again 
and again, and hoisting and hauling down sail, we at length 
tripped our anchor and stood out to sea. It was bright star- 
light when we were clear of the bay, and the lofty island lay 
behind us in its still beauty, and I gave a parting look and 
bade farewell to the most romantic spot of earth that my eyes 
had ever seen. I did then, and have ever since, felt an at- 
tachment for that island altogether peculiar. It was partly, 
no doubt, from its having been the first land that I had seen 
since leaving home, and still more from the associations which 



JUAN FERNANDEZ 47 

every one has connected with it in his childhood from reading 
Robinson Crusoe. To this I may add the height and romantic 
outHne of its mountains, the beauty and freshness of its ver- 
dure and the extreme fertihty of its soil, and its solitary posi- 
tion in the midst of the wide expanse of the South Pacific, as 
all concurring to give it its charm. 

When thoughts of this place have occurred to me at differ- 
ent times, I have endeavoured to recall more particulars with 
regard to it. It is situated in about 33° 30' S., and is distant 
a little more than three hundred miles from Valparaiso, on 
the coast of Chili, which is in the same latitude. It is about 
fifteen miles in length and five in breadth. The harbour in 
which we anchored (called by Lord Anson, Cumberland Bay) 
is the only one in the island, two small bights of land on each 
side of the main bay (sometimes dignified by the name of 
bays) being little more than landing-places for boats. The 
best anchorage is at the western side of the harbour, where 
we lay at about three cables' lengths from the shore, in a little 
mxOre than thirty fathoms water. This harbour is open to the 
N.N.E., and in fact nearly from N. to E. ; but the only dan- 
gerous winds being the southwest, on which side are the 
highest mountains, it is considered safe. The most remarkable 
thing, perhaps, about it is the fish with which it abounds. 
Two of our crew, who remained on board, caught in a short 
time enough to last us for several days, and one of the men, 
who was a Marblehead man, said that he never saw or heard 
of such an abundance. There were cod, bream, silver-fish, 
and other kinds, whose names they did not know, or which I 
have forgotten. 

There is an abundance of the best of water upon the island, 
small streams running through every valley, and leaping down 
from the sides of the hills. One stream of considerable size 
flows through the centre of the lawn upon which the houses 
are built, and furnishes an easy and abundant supply to the 
inhabitants. This, by means of a short wooden aqueduct, 
was brought quite down to our boats. The convicts had also 



48 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

built something in the way of a breakwater, and were to build 
a landing-place for boats and goods, after which the Chilian 
government intended to lay port charges. 

Of the wood, I can only say that it appeared to be abun- 
dant ; the island in the month of November, when we were 
there, being in all the freshness and beauty of spring, appeared 
covered with trees. These were chiefly aromatic, and the 
largest was the myrtle. The soil is very loose and rich, and 
wherever it is broken up there spring up radishes, turnips, 
ground apples, and other garden fruits. Goats, we were told, 
were not abundant, and we saw none, though it was said we 
might, if we had gone into the interior. We saw a few bul- 
locks winding about in the narrow tracks upon the sides of the 
mountains, and the settlement was completely overrun with 
dogs of every nation, kindred, and degree. Hens and chickens 
were also abundant, and seemed to be taken good care of by 
the women. The men appeared to be the laziest of mortals ; 
and indeed, as far as my observation goes, there are no people 
to whom the newly invented Yankee word of "loafer" is 
more applicable than to the Spanish Americans. These men 
stood about doing nothing, with their cloaks, little better in 
texture than an Indian's blanket, but of rich colours, thrown 
over their shoulders with an air which it is said that a Spanish 
beggar can always give to his rags, and with politeness and 
courtesy in their address, though with holes in their shoes, 
and without a sou in their pockets. The only interruption to 
the monotony of their day seemed to be when a gust of wind 
drew round between the mountains and blew off the boughs 
which they had placed for roofs to their houses, and gave 
them a few minutes' occupation in running about after them. 
One of these gusts occurred while we were ashore, and af- 
forded us no little amusement in seeing the men look round, 
and, if they found that their roofs had stood, conclude that 
they might stand too, while those who saw theirs blown off, 
after uttering a few Spanish oaths, gathered their cloaks over 
their shoulders, and started off after them. However, they 



JUAN FERNANDEZ 49 

were not gone long, but soon returned to their habitual occu- 
pation of doing nothing. 

It is perhaps needless to say that we saw nothing of the 
interior ; but all who have seen it give favourable accounts of 
it. Our captain went with the governor and a few servants 
upon mules over the mountains, and, upon their return, I 
heard the governor request him to stop at the island on his 
passage home, and offer him a handsome sum to bring a few 
deer with him from California, for he said that there were 
none upon the island, and he was very desirous of having it 
stocked. 

A steady though light southwesterly wind carried us well 
off from the island, and when I came on deck for the middle 
watch I could just distinguish it from its hiding a few low 
stars in the southern horizon, though my unpractised eyes 
would hardly have known it for land. At the close of the 
watch a few trade-wind clouds which had arisen, though we 
were hardly yet in their latitude, shut it out from our view, 
and the next day, — 

Thursday^ November 2'jthy upon coming on deck in the 
morning, we were again upon the wide Pacific, and saw no 
more land until we arrived upon the western coast of the great 
continent of America. 



CHAPTER VIII 

AS we saw neither land nor sail from the time of leaving 
Juan Fernandez until our arrival in California, nothing 
of interest occurred except our own doings on board. 
We caught the southeast trades, and ran before them for 
nearly three weeks, without so much as altering a sail or bra- 
cing a yard. The captain took advantage of this fine weather 
to get the vessel in order for coming upon the coast. The 
carpenter was employed in fitting up a part of the steerage 
into a trade-room ; for our cargo, we now learned, was not to 
be landed, but to be sold by retail on board ; and this trade- 
room was built for the samples and the lighter goods to be 
kept in, and as a place for the general business. In the mean 
time we were employed in working upon the rigging. Every- 
thing was set up taut, the lower rigging rattled down, or 
rather rattled up (according to the modern fashion), an abun- 
dance of spun-yarn and seizing-stuff made, and finally the 
whole standing-rigging, fore and aft, was tarred down. It was 
my first essay at the latter business, and I had enough of it ; 
for nearly all of it came upon my friend Stimson and myself. 
The men were needed at the other work, and Henry Melius, 
the other young man who came out with us before the mast, 
was laid up with the rheumatism in his feet, and the boy Sam 
was rather too young and small for the business ; and as the 
winds were light and regular he was kept during most of the 
daytime at the helm, so that we had quite as much as we 
wished of it. We put on short duck frocks, and, taking a 
small bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum in our hands, went 
aloft, one at the main royal-masthead, and the other at the 
fore, and began tarring down. This is an important operation, 
and is usually done about once in six months in vessels upon 

50 



PUTTING THE VESSEL IN ORDER 5 1 

a long voyage. It was done in our vessel several times after- 
wards, but by the whole crew at once, and finished . off in a 
day ; but at this time, as most of it, as I have said, came upon 
two of us, and we were new at the business, it took several 
days. In this operation they always begin at the mast-head, 
and work down, tarring the shrouds, back-stays, standing parts 
of the lifts, the ties, runners, etc., and go out to the yard-arms, 
and come in, tarring, as they come, the lifts and foot-ropes. 
Tarring the stays is more difficult, and is done by an operation 
which the sailors call "riding down." A long piece of rope — 
top-gallant-studding-sail halyards, or something of the kind — 
is taken up to the mast-head from which the stay leads, and 
rove through a block for a girt-line, or, as the sailors usually 
call it, a gant-line ; with the end of this, a bowline is taken 
round the stay, into which the man gets with his bucket of 
tar and bunch of oakum ; and the other end being fast on 
deck, with some one to tend it, he is lowered down gradually, 
and tars the stay carefully as he goes. There he "swings 
aloft 'twixt heaven and earth," and if the rope slips, breaks, or 
is let go, or if the bowline slips, he falls overboard or breaks 
his neck. This, however, is a thing which never enters into 
a sailor's calculation. He only thinks of leaving no holidays 
(places not tarred), — for, in case he should, he would have to 
go over the whole again, — or of dropping no tar upon deck, 
for then there would be a soft word in his ear from the mate. 
In this manner I tarred down all the head-stays, but found the 
rigging about the jib-booms, martingale, and spritsail yard, 
upon which I was afterwards put, the hardest. Here you 
have to "hang on with your eyelids " and tar with your hands. 
This dirty work could not last forever ; and on Saturday 
night we finished it, scraped all the spots from the deck and 
rails, and, what was of more importance to us, cleaned our- 
selves thoroughly, rolled up our tarry frocks and trousers and 
laid them away for the next occasion, and put on our clean duck 
clothes, and had a good comfortable sailor's Saturday night. 
The next day was pleasant, and indeed we had but one un- 



52 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

pleasant Sunday during the whole voyage, and that was off 
Cape Horn, where we could expect nothing better. On Mon- 
day we began painting, and getting the vessel ready for port. 
This work, too, is done by the crew, and every sailor who has 
been long voyages is a little of a painter, in addition to his 
other accomplishments. We painted her, both inside and out, 
from the truck to the water's edge. The outside is painted 
by lowering stages over the side by ropes, and on those we 
sat, with our brushes and paint-pots by us, and our feet half 
the time in the water. This must be done, of course, on a 
smooth day, when the vessel does not roll much. I remember 
very well being over the side painting in this way, one fine 
afternoon, our vessel going quietly along at the rate of four or 
five knots, and a pilot-fish, the sure precursor of a shark, 
swimming alongside of us. The captain was leaning over the 
rail watching him, and we went quietly on with our work. In 
the midst of our painting, on — 

Friday, December igthy we crossed the equator for the 
second time. I had the sense of incongruity which all have 
when, for the first time, they find themselves living under an 
entire change of seasons ; as, crossing the line under a burn- 
ing sun in the midst of December. 

Thursday, December 2^th. This day was Christmas, but 
it brought us no holiday. The only change was that we had 
a "plum duff" for dinner, and the crew quarrelled with the 
steward because he did not give us our usual allowance of 
molasses to eat with it. He thought the plums would be a 
substitute for the molasses, but we were not to be cheated out 
of our rights in that way. 

Such are the trifles which produce quarrels on shipboard. 
In fact, we had been too long from port. We were getting 
tired of one another, and were in an irritable state, both for- 
ward and aft. Our fresh provisions were, of course, gone, and 
the captain had stopped our rice, so that we had nothing but 
salt beef and salt pork throughout the week, with the exception 
of a very small duff on Sunday. This added to the discon- 



DAILY LIFE 53 

tent ; and many little things, daily and almost hourly occurring, 
which no one who has not himself been on a long and tedious 
voyage can conceive of or properly appreciate, — little wars 
and rumours of wars, reports of things said in the cabin, mis- 
understanding of words and looks, apparent abuses, — brought 
us into a condition in which everything seemed to go wrong. 
Every encroachment upon the time allowed for rest appeared 
unnecessary. Every shifting of the studding-sails was only to 
*' haze " ^ the crew. 

In the midst of this state of things, my messmate Stimson 
and I petitioned the captain for leave to shift our berths from 
the steerage, where we had previously lived, into the forecastle. 
This, to our delight, was granted, and we turned in to bunk 
and mess with the crew forward. We now began to feel like 
sailors, which we never fully did when we were in the steerage. 
While, there, however useful and active you may be, you are 
but a mongrel, — a sort of afterguard and "ship's cousin." 
You are immediately under the eye of the officers, can not 
dance, sing, play, smoke, make a noise, or growl, or take any 
other sailor's pleasure ; and you live with the steward, who is 
usually a go-between ; and the crew never feel as though you 
were one of them. 

But if you live in the forecastle, you are *^as indepen- 
dent as a wood-sawyer's clerk" (nautice), and are a sailor. 
You hear sailors' talk, learn their ways, their peculiarities 
of feeling as well as speaking and acting ; and, moreover, 
pick up a great deal of curious and useful information in 
seamanship, ship's customs, foreign countries, etc., from their 
long yarns and equally long disputes. No man can be a sailor, 
or know what sailors are, unless he has lived in the forecastle 
with them, — turned in and out with them, and eaten from the 
common kid. After I had been a week there, nothing would 

I Haze is a word of frequent use on board ship. It is very expressive to a 
sailor, and means to punish by hard work. Let an officer once say, " I'll haze 
you," and your fate is fixed. You will be "worked up," if you are not a better 
man than he is. 



54 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

have tempted me to go back to my old berth, and never after- 
wards, even in the worst of weather, when in a close and 
leaking forecastle off Cape Horn, did I for a moment wish 
myself in the steerage. Another thing which you learn 
better in the forecastle than you can anywhere else is, to 
make and mend clothes, and this is indispensable to sailors. 
A large part of their watches below they spend at this work, 
and here I learned the art myself, which stood me in so good 
stead afterwards. 

But to return to the state of the crew. Upon our coming 
into the forecastle, there was some difficulty about the uniting 
of the allowances of bread, by which we thought we were to 
lose a few pounds. This set us into a ferment. The captain 
would not condescend to explain, and we went aft in a body, 
with John, the Swede, the oldest and best sailor of the crew, 
for spokesman. The recollection of the scene that followed 
always brings up a smile, especially the quarter-deck dignity 
and elocution of the captain. He was walking the weather 
side of the quarter-deck, and, seeing us coming aft, stopped 
short in his walk, and with a voice and look intended to annihi- 
late us called out, " Well, what the d 1 do you want now ? " 

Whereupon we stated our grievances as respectfully as we 
could, but he broke in upon us, saying that we were getting 
fat and lazy, did n't have enough to do, and it was that which 
made us find fault. This provoked us, and we began to give 
word for word. This would never answer. He clinched his 
fist, stamped and swore, and ordered us all forward, saying, 
with oaths enough interspersed to send the words home, 
"Away with you! go forward every one of you! I '11 haze 
you ! I '11 work you up ! You don't have enough to do ! If 
you a'n't careful I '11 make a hell of heaven ! . . . You 've mis- 
taken your man ! I 'm Frank Thompson, all the way from 
'down east.' I 've been through the mill, ground and bolted, 
and come out a regular-built down-east johnny-cake, when it 's 
hot, d d good, but when it 's cold, d d sour and indi- 
gestible ; — and you '11 find me so!" The latter part of this 



POINT CONCEPTION 55 

harangue made a strong impression, and the "down-east 
johnny-cake" became a byword for the rest of the voyage, 
and on the coast of Cahfornia, after our arrival. One of 
his nicknames in all the ports was " The Down-east Johnny- 
cake." So much for our petition for the redress of griev- 
ances. The matter was, however, set right, for the mate, 
after allowing the captain due time to cool off, explained it 
to him, and at night we were all called aft to hear another 
harangue, in which, of course, the whole blame of the mis- 
understanding was thrown upon us. We ventured to hint 
that he would not give us time to explain ; but it would n't do. 
We were driven back discomfited. Thus the affair blew over, 
but the irritation caused by it remained ; and we never had 
peace or a good understanding again so long as the captain 
and crew remained together. 

We continued sailing along in the beautiful temperate cli- 
mate of the Pacific. The Pacific well deserves its name, for 
except in the southern part, at Cape Horn, and in the western 
parts, near the China and Indian oceans, it has few storms, 
and is never either extremely hot or cold. Between the tropics 
there is a slight haziness, like a thin gauze, drawn over the 
sun, which, without obstructing or obscuring the light, tem- 
pers the heat which comes down with perpendicular fierceness 
in the Atlantic and Indian tropics. We sailed well to the 
westward to have the full advantage of the northeast trades, 
and when we had reached the latitude of Point Conception, 
where it is usual to make the land, we were several hundred 
miles to the westward of it. We immediately changed our 
course due east, and sailed in that direction for a number of 
days. At length we began to heave-to after dark, for fear of 
making the land at night, on a coast where there are no light- 
houses and but indifferent charts, and at daybreak on the 
morning of — 

Tuesday, January 13th, 18 j^, we made the land at Point 
Conception, lat. 34° 32' N., Ion. 120° 06' W, The port of 
Santa Barbara, to which we were bound, lying about fifty 



56 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

miles to the southward of this point, we continued saiUng 
down the coast during the day and following night, and on 
the next morning, 

Jamiary i^th, we came to anchor in the spacious bay of 
Santa Barbara, after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days 
from Boston. 



CHAPTER IX 

CALIFORNIA extends along nearly the whole of the 
western coast of Mexico, between the Gulf of Califor- 
nia in the south and the Bay of San Francisco on the 
north, or between the 2 2d and 38th degrees of north latitude. 
It is subdivided into two provinces, — Lower or Old Cali- 
fornia, lying between the gulf and the 3 2d degree of latitude, 
or near it (the division line running, I believe, between the 
bay of Todos Santos and the port of San Diego), and New or 
Upper California, the southernmost port of which is San 
Diego, in lat. 32° 39^ and the northernmost, San Francisco, 
situated in the large bay discovered by Sir Francis Drake, in 
lat. 37° 58', and now known as the Bay of San Francisco, so 
named, I suppose, by Franciscan missionaries. Upper Cali- 
fornia has the seat of its government at Monterey, where is 
also the custom-house, the only one on the coast, and at which 
every vessel intending to trade on the coast must enter its 
cargo before it can begin its traffic. We were to trade upon 
this coast exclusively, and therefore expected to go first to 
Monterey, but the captain's orders from home were to put in 
at Santa Barbara, which is the central port of the coast, and 
wait there for the agent, who transacts all the business for the 
firm to which our vessel belonged. 

The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa 
Barbara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one 
side (between Point Conception on the north and Point Santa 
Buenaventura on the south), which here bends in like a cres- 
cent, and by three large islands opposite to it and at the 
distance of some twenty miles. These points are just suffi- 
cient to give it the name of a bay, while at the same time it is 
so large and so much exposed to the southeast and northwest 

57 



58 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

winds, that it is little better than an open roadstead ; and the 
whole swell of the Pacific Ocean rolls in here before a south- 
easter, and breaks with so heavy a surf in the shallow waters, 
that it is highly dangerous to lie near in to the shore during 
the southeaster season, that is, between the months of No- 
vember and April, 

This wind (the southeaster) is the bane of the coast of 
California. Between the months of November and April (in- 
cluding a part of each), which is the rainy season in this lati- 
tude, you are never safe from it ; and accordingly, in the ports 
which are open to it, vessels are obliged, during these months, 
to lie at anchor at a distance of three miles from the shore, 
with slip-ropes on their cables, ready to slip and go to sea at a 
moment's warning. The only ports which are safe from this 
wind are San Francisco and Monterey in the north, and San 
Diego in the south. 

As it was January when we arrived, and the middle of the 
southeaster season, we came to anchor at the distance of three 
miles from the shore, in eleven fathoms water, and bent a slip- 
rope and buoys to our cables, cast off the yard-arm gaskets 
from the sails, and stopped them all with rope-yarns. After 
we had done this, the boat went ashore with the captain, and 
returned with orders to the mate to send a boat ashore for 
him at sundown. I did not go in the first boat, and was glad 
to find that there was another going before night ; for after so 
long a voyage as ours had been, a few hours seem a long time 
to be in sight and out of reach of land. We spent the day 
on board in the usual duties ; but as this was the first time we 
had been without the captain, we felt a little more freedom, 
and looked about us to see what sort of a country we had got 
into, and were to pass a year or two of our lives in. 

It was a beautiful day, and so warm that we wore straw 
hats, duck trousers, and all the summer gear. As this was 
midwinter, it spoke well for the climate ; and we afterwards 
found that the thermometer never fell to the freezing point 
throughout the winter, and that there was very little differ- 



SANTA BARBARA 59 

ence between the seasons, except that during a long period of 
rainy and southeasterly weather, thick clothes were not un- 
comfortable. 

The large bay lay about us, nearly smooth, as there was 
hardly a breath of wind stirring, though the boat's crew who 
went ashore told us that the long ground-swell broke into heavy 
surf on the beach. There was only one vessel in the port — 
a long, sharp brig of about three hundred tons, with raking 
masts, and very square yards, and English colours at her peak. 
We afterwards learned that she was built at Guayaquil, and 
named the Ayacucho, after the place where the battle was 
fought that gave Peru her independence, and was now owned 
by a Scotchman named Wilson, who commanded her, and 
was engaged in the trade between Callao and other parts of 
South America and California. She was a fast sailer, as we 
frequently afterwards saw, and had a crew of Sandwich 
Islanders on board. Beside this vessel, there was no object 
to break the surface of the bay. Two points ran out as the 
horns of the crescent, one of which — the one to the west- 
ward — was low and sandy, and is that to which vessels are 
obliged to give a wide berth when running out for a south- 
easter; the other is high, bold, and well wooded, and has a 
mission upon it, called Santa Buenaventura, from which the 
point is named. In the middle of this crescent, directly op- 
posite the anchoring ground, lie the Mission and town of 
Santa Barbara, on a low plain, but little above the level of the 
sea, covered with grass, though entirely without trees, and 
surrounded on three sides by an amphitheatre of mountains, 
which slant off to the distance of fifteen or twenty miles. 
The Mission stands a little back of the town, and is a large 
building, or rather collection of buildings, in the centre of which 
is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells. The whole, being 
plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and is the mark 
by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little nearer 
to the beach, — about half a mile from it, — and is composed 
of one-story houses built of sun-baked clay, or adobe, some of 



60 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

them whitewashed, with red tiles on the roofs. I should judge 
that there were about a hundred of them ; and in the midst 
of them stands the Presidio, or fort, built of the same ma- 
terials, and apparently but little stronger. The town is finely 
situated, with a bay in front, and an amphitheatre of hills be- 
hind. The only thing which diminishes its beauty is, that 
the hills have no large trees upon them, they having been all 
burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a dozen 
years ago, and they had not yet grown again. The fire was 
described to me by an inhabitant, as having been a very terri- 
ble and magnificent sight. The air of the whole valley was 
so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and 
take up their quarters for several days upon the beach. 

Just before sundown, the mate ordered a boat's crew 
ashore, and I went as one of the number. We passed under 
the stern of the English brig, and had a long pull ashore. I 
shall never forget the impression which our first landing on 
the beach of California made upon me. The sun had just 
gone down ; it was getting dusky ; the damp night-wind was 
beginning to blow, and the heavy swell of the Pacific was 
setting in, and breaking in loud and high "combers" upon 
the beach. We lay on our oars in the swell, just outside of 
the surf, waiting for a good chance to run in, when a boat, 
which had put off from the Ayacucho, came alongside of us, 
with a crew of dusky Sandwich Islanders, talking and halloo- 
ing in their outlandish tongue. They knew that we were 
novices in this kind of boating, and waited to see us go in. 
The second mate, however, who steered our boat, determined 
to have the advantage of their experience, and would not go 
in first. Finding, at length, how matters stood, they gave a 
shout, and taking advantage of a great comber which came 
swelling in, rearing its head, and lifting up the sterns of our 
boats nearly perpendicular, and again dropping them in the 
trough, they gave three or four long and strong pulls, and 
went in on top of the great wave, throwing their oars over- 
board, and as far from the boat as they could throw them, 



BEACH-COMBING 6l 

and, jumping out the instant the boat touched the beach, they 
seized hold of her by the gunwale, on each side, and ran her 
up high and dry upon the sand. We saw, at once, how the 
thing was to be done, and also the necessity of keeping the 
boat stern out to the sea ; for the instant the sea should strike 
upon her broadside or quarter, she would be driven up broad- 
side on, and capsized. We pulled strongly in, and as soon as 
we felt that the sea had got hold of us, and was carrying us 
in with the speed of a race-horse, we threw the oars as far 
from the boat as we could, and took hold of the gunwales, 
ready to spring out and seize her when she struck, the officer 
using his utmost strength, with his steering-oar, to keep her 
stern out. We were shot up upon the beach, and, seizing the 
boat, ran her up high and dry, and, picking up our oars, stood 
by her, ready for the captain to come down. 

Finding that the captain did not come immediately, we 
put our oars in the boat, and, leaving one to watch it, walked 
about the beach to see what we could of the place. The 
beach is nearly a mile in length between the two points, and 
of smooth sand. We had taken the only good landing-place, 
which is in the middle, it being more stony toward the ends. 
It is about twenty yards in width from high-water mark to a 
slight bank at which the soil begins, and so hard that it is a 
favourite place for running horses. It was growing dark, so 
that we could just distinguish the dim outlines of the two 
vessels in the offing ; and the great seas were rolling in in 
regular lines, growing larger and larger as they approached 
the shore, and hanging over the beach upon which they were 
to break, when their tops would curl over and turn white with 
foam, and, beginning at one extreme of the line, break rapidly 
to the other, as a child's long card house falls when a card is 
knocked down at one end. The Sandwich Islanders, in the 
mean time, had turned their boat round, and ran her down 
into the water, and were loading her with hides and tallow. 
As this was the work in which we were soon to be engaged, 
we looked on with some curiosity. They ran the boat so far 



62 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

into the water that every large sea might float her, and two 
of them, with their trousers rolled up, stood by the bows, 
one on each side, keeping her in her right position. This 
was hard work ; for beside the force they had to use upon 
the boat, the large seas nearly took them off their legs. 
The others were running from the boat to the bank, upon 
which, out of the reach of the water, was a pile of dry bullocks' 
hides, doubled lengthwise in the middle, and nearly as stiff as 
boards. These they took upon their heads, one or two at a 
time, and carried down to the boat, in which one of their 
number stowed them away. They were obliged to carry them 
on their heads, to keep them out of the water, and we observed 
that they had on thick woollen caps. '^ Look here. Bill, and 
see what you 're coming to ! " said one of our men to another 
who stood by the boat. "Well, Dana," said the second mate 
to me, **this does not look much like Harvard College, does 
it .? But it is what I call ^head work.' " To tell the truth, it 
did not look very encouraging. 

After they had got through with the hides, the Kanakas 
laid hold of the bags of tallow (the bags are made of hide, and 
are about the size of a common meal-bag), and lifted each 
upon the shoulders of two men, one at each end, who walked 
off with them to the boat, when all prepared to go aboard. 
Here, too, was something for us to learn. The man who 
steered shipped his oar and stood up in the stern, and those 
that pulled the two after oars sat upon their benches, with 
their oars shipped, ready to strike out as soon as she was 
afloat. The two men remained standing at the bows ; and 
when, at length, a large sea came in and floated her, seized 
hold of the gunwales, and ran out with her till they were up 
to their armpits, and then tumbled over the gunwales into the 
bows, dripping with water. The men at the oars struck out, 
but it would n't do ; the sea swept back and left them nearly 
high and dry. The two fellows jumped out again; and the 
next time they succeeded better, and, with the help of a deal 
of outlandish hallooing and bawling, got her well off. We 



BEACH-COMBING 63 

watched them till they were out of the breakers, and saw 
them steering for their vessel, which was now hidden in the 
darkness. 

The sand of the beach began to be cold to our bare feet ; 
the frogs set up their croaking in the marshes, and one solitary 
owl, from the end of the distant point, gave out his melancholy 
note, mellowed by the distance, and we began to think that it 
was high time for "the old man," as a shipmaster is commonly 
called, to come down. In a few minutes we heard something 
coming towards us. It was a man on horseback. He came 
on the full gallop, reined up near us, addressed a few words 
to us, and, receiving no answer, wheeled round and galloped 
off again. He was nearly as dark as an Indian, with a large 
Spanish hat, blanket cloak or serapa, and leather leggins, with 
a long knife stuck in them. " This is the seventh city that 
ever I was in, and no Christian one neither," said Bill Brown, 
*' Stand by ! " said John, "you have n't see the worst of it yet." 
In the midst of this conversation the captain appeared ; and 
we winded the boat round, shoved her down, and prepared to 
go off. The captain, who had been on the coast before, and 
"knew the ropes," took the steering-oar, and we went off in 
the same way as the other boat. I, being the youngest, 
had the pleasure of standing at the bow, and getting wet 
through. We went off well, though the seas were high. 
Some of them lifted us up, and, sliding from under us, seemed 
to let us drop through the air like a fiat plank upon the body 
of the water. In a few minutes we were in the low, regular 
swell, and pulled for a light, which, as we neared it, we found 
had been run up to our trysail gaff. 

Coming aboard, we hoisted up all the boats, and, diving 
down into the forecastle, changed our wet clothes, and got 
our supper. After supper the sailors lighted their pipes 
(cigars, those of us who had them), and we had to tell all we 
had seen ashore. Then followed conjectures about the people 
ashore, the length of the voyage, carrying hides, etc., until 
eight bells, when all hands were called aft, and the "anchor 



64 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

watch " set. We were to stand two in a watch, and, as the 
nights were pretty long, two hours were to make a watch. 
The second mate was to keep the deck until eight o'clock, all 
hands were to be called at daybreak, and the word was passed 
to keep a bright lookout, and to call the mate if it should come 
on to blow from the southeast. We had, also, orders to strike 
the bells every half-hour through the night, as at sea. My 
watchmate was John, the Swedish sailor, and we stood from 
twelve to two, he walking the larboard side and I the star- 
board. At daylight all hands were called, and we went through 
the usual process of washing down, swabbing, etc., and got 
breakfast at eight o'clock. In the course of the forenoon, a 
boat went aboard of the Ayacucho and brought off a quarter 
of beef, which made us a fresh bite for dinner. This we were 
glad enough to have, and the mate told us that we should live 
upon fresh beef while we were on the coast, as it was cheaper 
here than the salt. While at dinner, the cook called " Sail ho ! " 
and, coming on deck, we saw two sails bearing round the point. 
One was a large ship under top-gallant sails, and the other 
a small hermaphrodite brig. They both backed their topsails 
and sent boats aboard of us. The ship's colours had puzzled 
us, and we found that she was from Genoa, with an assorted 
cargo, and was trading on the coast. She filled away again, 
and stood out, being bound up the coast to San Francisco. 
The crew of the brig's boat were Sandwich Islanders, but 
one of them, who spoke a little English, told us that she was 
the Loriotte, Captain Nye, from Oahu, and was engaged 
in the hide and tallow trade. She was a lump of a thing, 
what the sailors call a butter-box. This vessel, as well as the 
Ayacucho, and others which we afterwards saw engaged in 
the same trade, have English or Americans for officers, and 
two or three before the mast to do the work upon the rig- 
ging, and to be relied upon for seamanship, while the rest 
of the crew are Sandwich Islanders, who are active and very 
useful in boating. 

The three captains went ashore after dinner, and came off 



IN PORT 65 

again at night. When in port, everything is attended to by 
the chief mate ; the captain, unless he is also supercargo, has 
little to do, and is usually ashore much of his time. This we 
thought would be pleasanter for us, as the mate was a good- 
natured man, and not very strict. So it was for a time, but 
we were worse off in the end ; for wherever the captain is 
a severe, energetic man, and the mate has neither of these 
qualities, there will always be trouble. And trouble we had 
already begun to anticipate. The captain had several times 
found fault with the mate, in presence of the crew ; and hints 
had been dropped that all was not right between them. When 
this is the case, and the captain suspects that his chief officer 
is too easy and familiar with the crew, he begins to interfere 
in all the duties, and to draw the reins more taut, and the crew 
have to suffer. 



CHAPTER X 

THIS night, after sundown, it looked black at the south- 
ward and eastward, and we were told to keep a bright 
lookout. Expecting to be called, we turned in early. 
Waking up about midnight, I found a man who had just come 
down from his watch striking a light. He said that it was begin- 
ning to puff from the southeast, that the sea was rolling in, and 
he had called the captain ; and as he threw himself down on his 
chest with all his clothes on, I knew that he expected to be 
called. I felt the vessel pitching at her anchor, and the chain 
surging and snapping, and lay awake, prepared for an instant 
summons. In a few minutes it came, — three knocks on the 
scuttle, and '' All hands ahoy ! bear-a-hand ^ up and make sail." 
We sprang for our clothes, and were about half dressed, when 
the mate called out, down the scuttle, " Tumble up here, men ! 
tumble up ! before she drags her anchor." We were on deck 
in an instant. " Lay aloft and loose the topsails ! " shouted 
the captain, as soon as the first man showed himself. Spring- 
ing into the rigging, I saw that the Ayacucho's topsails were 
loosed, and heard her crew singing out at the sheets as they 
were hauling them home. This had probably started our cap- 
tain, as "Old Wilson" (the captain of the Ayacucho) had 
been many years on the coast, and knew the signs of the 
weather. We soon had the topsails loosed ; and one hand 
remaining, as usual, in each top, to overhaul the rigging and 
light the sail out, the rest of us came down to man the sheets. 
While sheeting home, we saw the Ayacucho standing athwart 
our hawse, sharp upon the wind, cutting through the head 
seas like a knife, with her raking masts, and her sharp bows 
running up like the head of a greyhound. It was a beautiful 

I " Bear-a-hand " is to make haste. 
66 



A SOUTHEASTER 6/ 

sight. She was like a bird which had been frightened and 
had spread her wings in flight. After our topsails had been 
sheeted home, the head yards braced aback, the fore-topmast 
staysail hoisted, and the buoys streamed, and all ready forward 
for slipping, we went aft and manned the slip-rope which came 
through the stern port with a turn round the timber-heads. 
" All ready forward .? " asked the captain. "Aye, aye, sir; all 
ready," answered the mate. "Let go!" "All gone, sir"; 
and the chain cable grated over the windlass and through the 
hawse-hole, and the little vessel's head swinging off from the 
wind under the force of her backed head sails brought the 
strain upon the slip-rope. " Let go aft ! " Instantly all was 
gone, and we were under way. As soon as she was well off 
from the wind, we filled away the head yards, braced all up 
sharp, set the foresail and trysail, and left our anchorage 
well astern, giving the point a good berth. " Nye 's off too," 
said the captain to the mate ; and, looking astern, we could 
just see the little hermaphrodite brig, under sail, standing 
after us. 

It now began to blow fresh ; the rain fell fast, and it grew 
black ; but the captain would not take in sail until we were 
well clear of the point. As soon as we left this on our quar- 
ter, and were standing out to sea, the order was given, and we 
went aloft, double-reefed each topsail, furled the foresail, and 
double-reefed the trysail, and were soon under easy sail. In 
these cases of slipping for southeasters there is nothing to be 
done, after you have got clear of the coast, but to lie-to under 
easy sail, and wait for the gale to be over, which seldom lasts 
more than two days, and is sometimes over in twelve hours ; 
but the wind never comes back to the southward until there 
has a good deal of rain fallen. "Go below the watch," said 
the mate ; but here was a dispute which watch it should be. 
The mate soon settled it by sending his watch below, saying 
that we should have our turn the next time we got under way. 
We remained on deck till the expiration of the watch, the 
wind blowing very fresh and the rain coming down in torrents. 



6S TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

When the watch came up, we wore ship, and stood on the 
other tack, in towards land. When we came up again, which 
was at four in the morning, it was very dark, and there was 
not much wind, but it was raining as I thought I had never 
seen it rain before. We had on oil-cloth suits and southwester 
caps, and had nothing to do but to stand bolt upright and let 
it pour down upon us. There are no umbrellas, and no sheds 
to go under, at sea. 

While we were standing about on deck, we saw the little 
brig drifting by us, hove to under her fore topsail double 
reefed ; and she glided by like a phantom. Not a word was 
spoken, and we saw no one on deck but the man at the wheel. 
Toward morning the captain put his head out of the compan- 
ion-way and told the second mate, who commanded our watch, 
to look out for a change of wind, which usually followed a 
calm, with heavy rain. It was well that he did ; for in a few 
minutes it fell dead calm, the vessel lost her steerage way, 
the rain ceased, we hauled up the trysail and courses, squared 
the after-yards, and waited for the change, which came in a 
few minutes, with a vengeance, from the northwest, the op- 
posite point of the compass. Owing to our precautions, we 
were not taken aback, but ran before the wind with square 
yards. The captain coming on deck, we braced up a little 
and stood back for our anchorage. With the change of wind 
came a change of weather, and in two hours the wind moder- 
ated into the light steady breeze, which blows down the coast 
the greater part of the year, and, from its regularity, might be 
called a trade-wind. The sun came up bright, and we set 
royals, skysails and studding-sails, and were under fair way for 
Santa Barbara. The little Loriotte was astern of us, nearly 
out of sight ; but we saw nothing of the Ayacucho. In a 
short time she appeared, standing out from Santa Rosa Island, 
under the lee of which she had been hove to all night. Our 
captain was eager to get in before her, for it would be a great 
credit to us, on the coast, to beat the Ayacucho, which had 
been called the best sailer in the North Pacific, in which she 



A SOUTHEASTER 69 

had been known as a trader for six years or more. We had 
an advantage over her in Hght winds, from our royals and 
skysails which we carried both at the fore and main, and also 
from our studding-sails; for Captain Wilson carried nothing 
above top-gallant-sails, and always unbent his studding-sails 
when on the coast. As the wind was light and fair, we held 
our own, for some time, when we were both obliged to brace 
up and come upon a taut bowline, after rounding the point ; 
and here he had us on his own ground, and walked away from 
us, as you would haul in a line. He afterwards said that we 
sailed well enough with the wind free, but that give him a taut 
bowline, and he would beat us, if we had all the canvas of the 
Royal George. 

The Ayacucho got to the anchoring ground about half an 
hour before us, and was furling her sails when we came to it. 
This picking up your cables is a nice piece of work. It re- 
quires some seamanship to do it, and to come-to at your for- 
mer moorings, without letting go another anchor. Captain 
Wilson was remarkable, among the sailors on the coast, for 
his skill in doing this ; and our captain never let go a second 
anchor during all the time that I was with him. Coming 
a little to windward of our buoy, we clewed up the light sails, 
backed our main topsail, and lowered a boat, which pulled off, 
and made fast a spare hawser to the buoy on the end of the 
slip-rope. We brought the other end to the capstan, and hove 
in upon it until we came to the slip-rope, which we took to the 
windlass, and walked her up to her chain, occasionally helping 
her by backing and filling the sails. The chain is then passed 
through the hawse-hole and round the windlass, and bitted, 
the slip-rope taken round outside and brought into the stern 
port, and she is safe in her old berth. After we had got 
through, the mate told us that this was a small touch of 
California, the like of which we must expect to have through 
the winter. 

After we had furled the sails and got dinner, we saw the 
Loriotte nearing, and she had her anchor before night. At 



70 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

sundown we went ashore again, and found the Loriotte's boat 
waiting on the beach. The Sandwich Islander, who could 
speak English, told us that he had been up to the town ; that 
our agent, Mr. Robinson, and some other passengers, were 
going to Monterey with us, and that we were to sail the same 
night. In a few minutes Captain Thompson, with two gen- 
tlemen and a lady, came down, and we got ready to go off. 
They had a good deal of baggage, which we put into the bows 
of the boat, and then two of us took the senora in our arms, 
and waded with her through the water, and put her down 
safely in the stern. She appeared much amused with the 
transaction, and her husband was perfectly satisfied, thinking 
any arrangement good which saved his wetting his feet. I 
pulled the after oar, so that I heard the conversation, and 
learned that one of the men, who, as well as I could see in the 
darkness, was a young-looking man, in the European dress, 
and covered up in a large cloak, was the agent of the firm to 
which our vessel belonged ; and the other, who was dressed 
in the Spanish dress of the country, was a brother of our 
captain, who had been many years a trader on the coast, and 
that the lady was his wife. She was a delicate, dark-com- 
plexioned young woman, of one of the respectable families of 
California. I also found that we were to sail the same night. 
As soon as we got on board, the boats were hoisted up, 
the sails loosed, the windlass manned, the slip-ropes and gear 
cast off ; and after about twenty minutes of heaving at the 
windlass, making sail, and bracing yards, we were well under 
way, and going with a fair wind up the coast to Monterey. 
The Loriotte got under way at the same time, and was also 
bound up to Monterey, but as she took a different course from 
us, keeping the land aboard, while we kept well out to sea, we 
soon lost sight of her. We had a fair wind, which is some- 
thing unusual when going up, as the prevailing wind is the 
north, which blows directly down the coast ; whence the 
northern are called the windward, and the southern the lee- 
ward ports. 



CHAPTER XI 

WE got clear of the islands before sunrise the next 
morning, and by twelve o'clock were out of the 
canal, and off Point Conception, the place where we 
first made the land upon our arrival. This is the largest 
point on the coast, and is an uninhabited headland, stretching 
out into the Pacific, and has the reputation of being very 
windy. Any vessel does well which gets by it without a gale, 
especially in the winter season. We were going along with 
studding-sails set on both sides, when, as we came round the 
point, we had to haul our wind, and take in the lee studding- 
sails. As the brig came more upon the wind, she felt it more, 
and we doused the skysails, but kept the weather studding- 
sails on her, bracing the yards forward, so that the swinging- 
boom nearly touched the spritsail yard. She now lay over to 
it, the wind was freshening, and the captain was evidently 
"dragging on to her." His brother and Mr. Robinson, look- 
ing a little disturbed, said something to him, but he only 
answered that he knew the vessel and what she would carry. 
He was evidently showing off, and letting them know how he 
could carry sail. He stood up to windward, holding on by 
the backstays, and looking up at the sticks to see how much 
they would bear, when a puff came which settled the matter. 
Then it was **haul down" and "clew up" royals, flying-jib, 
and studding-sails, all at once. There was what the sailors 
call a "mess," — everything let go, nothing hauled in, and 
everything flying. The poor Mexican woman came to the com- 
panion-way, looking as pale as a ghost, and nearly frightened 
to death. The mate and some men forward were trying to 
haul in the lower studding-sail, which had blown over the 
spritsail yard-arm and round the guys, while the topmast- 

71 



72 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Studding-sail boom, after buckling up and springing out again 
like a piece of whalebone, broke off at the boom-iron. I 
jumped aloft to take in the main top-gallant studding-sail, but 
before I got into the top the tack parted, and away went the 
sail, swinging forward of the top-gallant-sail, and tearing and 
slatting itself to pieces. The halyards were at this moment 
let go by the run, and such a piece of work I never had be- 
fore in taking in a sail. After great exertions I got it, or the 
remains of it, into the top, and was making it fast, when the 
captain, looking up, called out to me, " Lay aloft there, Dana, 
and furl that main royal." Leaving the studding-sail, I went 
up to the cross-trees ; and here it looked rather squally. The 
foot of the top-gallant-mast was working between the cross 
and trussel trees, and the mast lay over at a fearful angle 
with the topmast below, while everything was working and 
cracking, strained to the utmost. 

There 's nothing for Jack to do but to obey orders, and I 
went up upon the yard; and there was a worse mess, if 
possible, than I had left below. The braces had been let go, 
and the yard was swinging about like a turnpike gate, and the 
whole sail, having blown out to leeward, the lee leach was 
over the yard-arm, and the skysail was all adrift and flying 
about my head. I looked down, but it was in vain to attempt 
to make myself heard, for every one was busy below, and the 
wind roared, and sails were flapping in all directions. For- 
tunately, it was noon and broad daylight, and the man at the 
wheel, who had his eyes aloft, soon saw my difficulty, and 
after numberless signs and gestures got some one to haul the 
necessary ropes taut. During this interval I took a look be- 
low. Everything was in confusion on deck ; the little vessel 
was tearing through the water as if she had lost her wits, the 
seas flying over her, and the masts leaning over at a wide 
angle from the vertical. At the other royal-mast-head was 
Stimson, working away at the sail, which was blowing from 
him as fast as he could gather it in. The top-gallant sail 
below me was soon clewed up, which relieved the mast, 



PASSAGE UP THE COAST 73 

and in a short time I got my sail furled, and went below ; 
but I lost overboard a new tarpaulin hat, which troubled 
me more than anything else. We worked for about half an 
hour with might and main ; and in an hour from the 
time the squall struck us, from having all our flying kites 
abroad, we came down to double-reefed topsails and the 
storm-sails. 

The wind had hauled ahead during the squall, and we were 
standing directly in for the point. So, as soon as we had got 
all snug, we wore round and stood off again, and had the 
pleasant prospect of beating up to Monterey, a distance of a 
hundred miles, against a violent head wind. Before night it 
began to rain ; and we had five days of rainy, stormy weather, 
under close sail all the time, and were blown several hundred 
miles off the coast. In the midst of this, we discovered that 
our fore topmast was sprung (which no doubt happened in the 
squall), and were obliged to send down the fore top-gallant- 
mast and carry as little sail as possible forward. Our four pas- 
sengers were dreadfully seasick, so that we saw little or nothing 
of them during the five days. On the sixth day it cleared off, 
and the sun came out bright, but the wind and sea were still 
very high. It was quite like being in mid-ocean again; no 
land for hundreds of miles, and the captain taking the sun 
every day at noon. Our passengers now made their appear- 
ance, and I had for the first time the opportunity of seeing 
what a miserable and forlorn creature a seasick passenger is. 
Since I had got over my own sickness, the third day from 
Boston, I had seen nothing but hale, hearty men, with their 
sea legs on, and able to go anywhere (for we had no passengers 
on our voyage out) ; and I will own there was a pleasant feel- 
ing of superiority in being able to walk the deck, and eat, and 
go aloft, and compare one's self with the two poor, miserable, 
pale creatures, staggering and shuffling about decks, or hold- 
ing on and looking up with giddy heads, to see us climbing to 
the mast-heads, or sitting quietly at work on the ends of the 
lofty yards. A well man at sea has little sympathy with one 



74 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

who is sea-sick ; he is apt to be too conscious of a comparison 
which seems favourable to his own manhood. 

After a few clays we made the land at Point Pinos, which 
is the headland at the entrance of the bay of Monterey. As 
we drew in and ran down the shore, we could distinguish well 
the face of the country, and found it better wooded than that 
to the southward of Point Conception. In fact, as I after- 
wards discovered. Point Conception may be made the dividing- 
line between two different faces of the country. As you go 
to the northward of the point, the country becomes more 
wooded, has a richer appearance and is better supplied with 
water. This is the case with Monterey, and still more so with 
San Francisco ; while to the southward of the point, as at 
Santa Barbara, San Pedro, and particularly San Diego, there 
is very little wood, and the country has a naked, level appear- 
ance, though it is still fertile. 

The bay of Monterey is wide at the entrance, being about 
twenty-four miles between the two points, Afio Nuevo at the 
north, and Pinos at the south, but narrows gradually as you 
approach the town, which is situated in a bend, or large cove, 
at the southeastern extremity, and from the points about 
eighteen miles, which is the whole depth of the bay. The 
shores are extremely well wooded (the pine abounding upon 
them), and as it was now the rainy season, everything was as 
green as nature could make it, — the grass, the leaves, and all ; 
the birds were singing in the woods, and great numbers of 
wild fowl were flying over our heads. Here we could lie safe 
from the southeasters. We came to anchor within two cable 
lengths of the shore, and the town lay directly before us, 
making a very pretty appearance ; its houses being of white- 
washed adobe, which gives a much better effect than those of 
Santa Barbara, which are mostly left of a mud colour. The 
red tiles, too, on the roofs, contrasted well with the white sides, 
and with the extreme greenness of the lawn upon which the 
houses — about a hundred in number — were dotted about, 
here and there, irregularly. There are in this place, and in 



MONTEREY 75 

every other town which I saw in California, no streets nor 
fences (except that here and there a small patch might be 
fenced in for a garden), so that the houses are placed at ran- 
dom upon the green. This, as they are of one story, and of 
the cottage form, gives them a pretty effect when seen from 
a little distance. 

It was a fine Saturday afternoon that we came to anchor, 
the sun about an hour high, and everything looking pleasantly. 
The Mexican flag was flying from the little square Presidio, 
and the drums and trumpets of the soldiers, who were out 
on parade, sounded over the water, and gave great life to 
the scene. Every one was delighted with the appearance of 
things. We felt as though we had got into a Christian 
(which in the sailor's vocabulary means civilized) country. 
The first impression which California had made upon us was 
very disagreeable, — the open roadstead of Santa Barbara; 
anchoring three miles from the shore ; running out to sea be- 
fore every southeaster ; landing in a high surf ; with a little 
dark-looking town, a mile from the beach; and not a sound 
to be heard, nor anything to be seen, but Kanakas, hides, 
and tallow-bags. Add to this the gale off Point Conception, 
and no one can be at a loss to account for our agreeable dis- 
appointment in Monterey. Besides, we soon learned, which 
was of no small importance to us, that there was little or no 
surf here, and this afternoon the beach was as smooth as a 
pond. 

We landed the agent and passengers, and found several 
persons waiting for them on the beach, among whom were 
some who, though dressed in the costume of the country, 
spoke English, and who, we afterwards learned, were English 
and Americans who had married and settled here. 

I also connected with our arrival here another circumstance 
which more nearly concerns myself ; viz., my first act of what 
the sailors will allow to be seamanship, — sending down a 
royal-yard. I had seen it done once or twice at sea ; and an 
old sailor, whose favour I had taken some pains to gain, had 



^6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

taught me carefully everything which was necessary to be 
done, and in its proper order, and advised me to take the first 
opportunity when we were in port, and try it. I told the 
second mate, with whom I had been pretty thick when he was 
before the mast, that I could do it, and got him to ask the 
mate to send me up the first time the royal-yards were struck. 
Accordingly, I was called upon, and went aloft, repeating the 
operations over in my mind, taking care to get each thing in 
its order, for the slightest mistake spoils the whole. Fortu- 
nately, I got through without any word from the officer, and 
heard the "well done" of the mate, when the yard reached 
the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at Cam- 
bridge on seeing a " bene " at the foot of a Latin exercise. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE next day being Sunday, which is the liberty-day 
among merchantmen, when it is usual to let a part of 
the crew go ashore, the sailors had depended upon a 
holiday, and were already disputing who should ask to go, 
when, upon being called in the morning, we were turned-to 
upon the rigging, and found that the top-mast, which had been 
sprung, was to come down, and a new one to go up, with top- 
gallant and royal masts, and the rigging to be set. This was 
too bad. If there is anything that irritates sailors, and makes 
them feel hardly used, it is being deprived of their Sunday. 
Not that they would always, or indeed generally, spend it im- 
provingly, but it is their only day of rest. Then, too, they 
are so often necessarily deprived of it by storms, and unavoid- 
able duties of all kinds, that to take it from them when lying 
quietly and safely in port, without any urgent reason, bears the 
more hardly. The only reason in this case was, that the cap- 
tain had determined to have the custom-house officers on board 
on Monday, and wished to have his brig in order. Jack is a 
slave aboard ship; but still he has many opportunities of 
thwarting and balking his master. When there is danger or 
necessity, or when he is well used, no one can work faster 
than he ; but the instant he feels that he is kept at work for 
nothing, or as the nautical phrase is, "humbugged," no sloth 
could make less headway. He must not refuse his duty, or be 
in any way disobedient, but all the work that an officer gets 
out of him, he may be welcome to. Every man who has been 
three months at sea knows how to " work Tom Cox's traverse " 
— " three turns round the long boat, and a pull at the scuttled 
butt." This morning everything went in this way. ** Soger- 
ing " was the order of the day. Send a man below to get a 



78 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

block, and he would capsize everything before finding it, then 
not bring it up till an officer had called him twice, and take as 
much time to put things in order again. Marline-spikes were 
not to be found ; knives wanted a prodigious deal of sharpen- 
ing, and, generally, three or four were waiting round the 
grindstone at a time. When a man got to the mast-head, he 
would come slowly down again for something he had left ; 
and after the tackles were got up, six men would pull less 
than three who pulled "with a will." When the mate was 
out of sight, nothing was done. It was all up-hill work ; 
and at eight o'clock, when we went to breakfast, things were 
nearly where they were when we began. 

During our short meal the matter was discussed. One pro- 
posed refusing to work ; but that was mutiny, and of course 
was rejected at once. I remember, too, that one of the men 
quoted "Father Taylor" (as they call the seamen's preacher 
at Boston), who told them that, if they were ordered to work 
on Sunday, they must not refuse their duty, and the blame 
would not come upon them. After breakfast, it leaked out, 
through the officers, that, if we would get through work soon, 
we might have a boat in the afternoon and go a-fishing. This 
bait was well thrown, and took with several who were fond of 
fishing ; and all began to find that as we had one thing to do, 
and were not to be kept at work for the day, the sooner we 
did it the better. Accordingly, things took a new aspect ; and 
before two o'clock, this work, which was in a fair way to last 
two days, was done ; and five of us went a-fishing in the jolly- 
boat, in the direction of Point Pinos ; but leave to go ashore 
was refused. Here we saw the Loriotte, which sailed with us 
from Santa Barbara, coming slowly in with a light sea-breeze, 
which sets in towards afternoon, having been becalmed off the 
point all the first part of the day. We took several fish of 
various kinds, among which cod and perch abounded, and 
Foster (the ci-devant second mate), who was of our number, 
brought up with his hook a large and beautiful pearl-oyster 
shell. We afterwards learned that this place was celebrated 



/ 

/ 



MONTEREY 79 

for shells, and that a small schooner had made a good voyage 
by carrying a cargo of them to the United States. 

We returned by sundown, and found the Loriotte at anchor 
within a cable's length of the Pilgrim. The next day we were 
"turned-to" early, and began taking oif the hatches, over- 
hauling the cargo, and getting everything ready for inspection. 
At eight, the officers of the customs, five in number, came on 
board, and began examining the cargo, manifest, etc. The 
Mexican revenue laws are very strict, and require the whole 
cargo to be landed, examined, and taken on board again ; but 
our agent had succeeded in compounding for the last two 
vessels, and saving the trouble of taking the cargo ashore. 
The officers were dressed in the costume which we found pre- 
vailed through the country, — broad-brimmed hat, usually of a 
black or dark brown colour, with a gilt or figured band round 
the crown, and lined under the rim with silk ; a short jacket 
of silk, or figured calico (the European skirted body-coat is 
never worn) ; the shirt open in the neck ; rich waistcoat, if 
any ; pantaloons open at the sides below the knee, laced with 
gilt, usually of velveteen or broadcloth ; or else short breeches 
and white stockings. They wear the deer-skin shoe, which is 
of a dark brown colour, and (being made by Indians) usually 
a good deal ornamented. They have no suspende :s, but 
always wear a sash round the waist, which is generally red, 
and varying in quality with the means of the wearer. Add to 
this the never-failing poncho, or the serapa, and you have the 
dress of the Calif ornian. This last garment is always a mark 
of the rank and wealth of the owner. The gente de razon, 
or better sort of people, wear cloaks of black or dark blue 
broadcloth, with as much velvet and trimmings as may be ; 
and from this they go down to the blanket of the Indian, the 
middle classes wearing a poncho, something like a large square 
cloth, with a hole in the middle for the head to go through. 
This is often as coarse as a blanket, but being beautifully 
woven with various colours, is quite showy at a distance. 
Among the Mexicans there is no working class (the Indians 



80 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

being practically serfs, and doing all the hard work) ; and every 
rich man looks like a grandee, and every poor scamp like a 
broken-down gentleman. I have often seen a man with a fine 
figure and courteous manners, dressed in broadcloth and velvet, 
with a noble horse completely covered with trappings, without 
a real in his pockets, and absolutely suffering for something 
to eat. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE next day, the cargo having been entered in due 
form, we began trading. The trade*room was fitted 
up in the steerage, and furnished out with the Hghter 
goods, and with specimens of the rest of the cargo ; and 
Melius, a young man who came out from Boston with us before 
the mast, was taken out of the forecastle, and made super- 
cargo's clerk. He was well qualified for this business, having 
been clerk in a counting-house in Boston ; but he had been 
troubled for some time with rheumatism, which unfitted him 
for the wet and exposed duty of a sailor on the coast. For a 
week or ten days all was life on board. The people came off 
to look and to buy, — men, women, and children ; and we were 
continually going in the boats, carrying goods and passengers, 
— for they have no boats of their own. Everything must 
dress itself and come aboard and see the new vessel, if it were 
only to buy a paper of pins. The agent and his clerk managed 
the sales, while we were busy in the hold or in the boats. Our 
cargo was an assorted one ; that is, it consisted of everything 
under the sun. We had spirits of all kinds (sold by the cask), 
teas, coffee, sugar, spices, raisins, molasses, hardware, crockery- 
ware, tin-ware, cutlery, clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes 
from Lynn, calicoes and cottons from Lowell, crapes, silks ; 
also, shawls, scarfs, necklaces, jewelry, and combs for the 
women ; furniture ; and, in fact, everything that can be 
imagined, from Chinese fire-works to English cart-wheels, — 
of which we had a dozen pairs with their iron tires on. 

The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can 

make nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, 

yet they buy, at a great price, bad wine made in Boston and 

brought round by us, and retail it among themselves at a real 

« 8i 



82 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

{i2}4 cents) by the small wine-glass. Their hides, too, which 
they value at two dollars in money, they barter for something 
which costs seventy-five cents in Boston ; and buy shoes (as 
like as not made of their own hides, which have been carried 
twice round Cape Horn) at three and four dollars, and 
*' chicken-skin boots " at fifteen dollars a pair. Things sell, 
on an average, at an advance of nearly three hundred per cent 
upon the Boston prices. This is partly owing to the heavy 
duties which the government, in their wisdom, with an idea, 
no doubt, of keeping the silver in the country, has laid upon 
imports. These duties, and the enormous expenses of so long 
a voyage, keep all merchants but those of heavy capital from 
engaging in the trade. Nearly two thirds of all the articles 
imported into the country from round Cape Horn, for the last 
six years, have been by the single house of Bryant, Sturgis 
& Co., to whom our vessel belonged. 

This kind of business was new to us, and we liked it very 
well for a few days, though we were hard at work every minute 
from daylight to dark, and sometimes even later. 

By being thus continually engaged in transporting passen- 
gers, with their goods, to and fro, we gained considerable 
knowledge of the character, dress, and language of the people. 
The dress of the men was as I have before described it. The 
women wore gowns of various texture, — silks, crape, calicoes, 
etc., — made after the European style, except that the sleeves 
were short, leaving the arm bare, and that they were loose 
about the waist, corsets not being in use. They wore shoes 
of kid or satin, sashes or belts of bright colours, and almost 
always a necklace and ear-rings. Bonnets they had none. 
I only saw one on the coast, and that belonged to the wife of 
an American sea-captain who had settled in San Diego, and 
had imported the chaotic mass of straw and ribbon, as a choice 
present to his new wife. They wear their hair (which is almost 
invariably black, or a very dark brown) long in their necks, 
sometimes loose, and sometimes in long braids ; though the 
married women often do it up on a high comb. Their only 



MONTEREY ' 83 

protection against the sun and weather is a large mantle which 
they put over their heads, drawing it close round their faces, 
when they go out of doors, which is generally only in pleasant 
weather. When in the house, or sitting out in front of it, 
which they often do in fine weather, they usually wear a small 
scarf or neckerchief of a rich pattern. A band, also, about 
the top of the head, with a cross, star, or other ornament in 
front, is common. Their complexions are various, depending 
— as well as their dress and manner — upon the amount of 
Spanish blood they can lay claim to, which also settles their 
social rank. Those who are of pure Spanish blood, having 
never intermarried with the aborigines, have clear brunette 
complexions, and sometimes even as fair as those of English 
women. There are but few of these families in California, 
being mostly those in official stations, or who, on the expira- 
tion of their terms of office, have settled here upon property 
they have acquired ; and others who have been banished for 
state offences. These form the upper class, intermarrying, 
and keeping up an exclusive system in every respect. They 
can be distinguished, not only by their complexion, dress, and 
manners, but also by their speech ; for calling themselves Cas- 
tilians, they are very ambitious of speaking the pure Castilian, 
while all Spanish is spoken in a somewhat corrupted dialect 
by the lower classes. From this upper class, they go down 
by regular shades, growing more and more dark and muddy, 
until you come to the pure Indian, who runs about with 
nothing upon him but a small piece of cloth, kept up by a 
wide leather strap, drawn round his waist. Generally speak- 
ing, each person's caste is decided by the quality of the blood, 
which shows itself, too plainly to be concealed, at first sight. 
Yet the least drop of Spanish blood, if it be only of quadroon 
or octoroon, is sufficient to raise one from the position of a 
serf, and entitle him to wear a suit of clothes, — boots, hat, 
cloak, spurs, long knife, all complete, though coarse and dirty 
as may be, — and to call himself Espafiol, and to hold property, 
if he can get any. 



84 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

The fondness for dress among the women is excessive, and 
is sometimes their ruin. A present of a fine mantle, or of a 
necklace or pair of ear-rings, gains the favour of the greater 
part. Nothing is more common than to see a woman living 
in a house of only two rooms, with the ground for a floor, 
dressed in spangled satin shoes, silk gown, high comb, and 
gilt, if not gold, ear-rings and necklace. If their husbands do 
not dress them well enough, they will soon receive presents 
from others. They used to spend whole days on board our 
vessel, examining the fine clothes and ornaments, and fre- 
quently making purchases at a rate which would have made a 
seamstress or waiting-maid in Boston open her eyes. 

Next to the love of dress, I was most struck with the fine- 
ness of the voices and beauty of the intonations of both sexes. 
Every common ruffian-looking fellow, with a slouched hat, 
blanket cloak, dirty under-dress, and soiled leather leggings, 
appeared to me to be speaking elegant Spanish. It was a 
pleasure simply to listen to the sound of the language, before 
I could attach any meaning to it. They have a good deal of 
the Creole drawl, but it is varied by an occasional extreme 
rapidity of utterance, in which they seem to skip from conso- 
nant to consonant, until, lighting upon a broad, open vowel, 
they rest upon that to restore the balance of sound. The 
women carry this peculiarity of speaking to a much greater 
extreme than the men, who have more evenness and stateli- 
ness of utterance. A common bullock-driver, on horseback, 
delivering a message, seemed to speak like an ambassador at 
a royal audience. In fact, they sometimes appeared to me to 
be a people on whom a curse had fallen, and stripped them of 
everything but their pride, their manners, and their voices. 

Another thing that surprised me was the quantity of silver 
in circulation. I never, in my life, saw so much silver at one 
time, as during the week that we were at Monterey. The 
truth is, they have no credit system, no banks, and no way of 
investing money but in cattle. Besides silver, they have no 
circulating medium but hides, which the sailors call " Cali- 



MONTEREY 85 

fornia bank-notes." Everything that they buy they must pay 
for by one or the other of these means. The hides they bring 
down dried and doubled, in clumsy ox-carts, or upon mules' 
backs, and the money they carry tied up in a handkerchief, 
fifty or a hundred dollars and half-dollars. 

I had not studied Spanish at college, and could not speak 
a word when at Juan Fernandez ; but, during the latter part 
of the passage out, I borrowed a grammar and dictionary from 
the cabin, and by a continual use of these, and a careful atten- 
tion to every word that I heard spoken, I soon got a vocabu- 
lary together, and began talking for myself. As I soon knew 
more Spanish than any of the crew (who, indeed, knew none 
at all), and had studied Latin and French, I got the name of 
a great linguist, and was always sent by the captain and offi- 
cers for provisions, or to take letters and messages to different 
parts of the town. I was often sent for something which I 
could not tell the name of to save my life ; but I liked the 
business, and accordingly never pleaded ignorance. Some- 
times I managed to jump below and take a look at my dic- 
tionary before going ashore ; or else I overhauled some English 
resident on my way, and learned the word from him ; and then, 
by signs, and by giving a Latin or French word a twist at the 
end, contrived to get along. This was a good exercise for me, 
and no doubt taught me more than I should have learned by 
months of study and reading ; it also gave me opportunities 
of seeing the customs, characters, and domestic arrangements 
of the people, beside being a great relief from the monotony 
of a day spent on board ship. 

Monterey, as far as my observation goes, is decidedly the 
pleasantest and most civilized-looking place in California. In 
the centre of it is an open square, surrounded by four lines of 
one-story buildings, with half a dozen cannon in the centre ; 
some mounted, and others not. This is the Presidio, or fort. 
Every town has a Presidio in its centre ; or rather every 
Presidio has a town built around it ; for the forts were first 
built by the Mexican government, and then the people built 



86 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

near them, for protection. The Presidio here was entirely 
open and unfortified. There were several officers with long 
titles, and about eighty soldiers, but they were poorly paid, 
fed, clothed, and disciplined. The governor-general, or, as he 
is commonly called, the "general," lives here, which makes it 
the seat of government. He is appointed by the central gov- 
ernment at Mexico, and is the chief civil and military officer. 
In addition to him, each town has a commandant who is its 
chief officer, and has charge of the fort, and of all transactions 
with foreigners and foreign vessels ; while two or three alcaldes 
and corregidores, elected by the inhabitants, are the civil offi- 
cers. Courts strictly of law, with a system of jurisprudence, 
they have not. Small municipal matters are regulated by the 
alcaldes and corregidores, and everything relating to the gen- 
eral government, to the military, and to foreigners, by the 
commandants, acting under the governor-general. Capital 
cases are decided by the latter, upon personal inspection, 
if near ; or upon minutes sent him by the proper officers, if 
the offender is at a distant place. No Protestant has any 
political rights, nor can he hold property, or, indeed, remain 
more than a few weeks on shore, unless he belong to a 
foreign vessel. Consequently, Americans and English, who 
intend to reside here, become Papists, — the current phrase 
among them being, "A man must leave his conscience at 
Cape Horn." 

But, to return to Monterey. The houses here, as every- 
where else in California, are of one story, built of adobes, that 
is, clay made into large bricks, about a foot and a half square, 
and three or four inches thick, and hardened in the sun. 
These are joined together by a cement of the same material, 
and the whole are of a common dirt-colour. The floors are 
generally of earth, the windows grated and without glass ; and 
the doors, which are seldom shut, open directly into the com- 
mon room, there being no entries. Some of the more wealthy 
inhabitants have glass to their windows and board floors ; and 
in Monterey nearly all the houses are whitewashed on the out- 



MONTEREY 8/ 

side. The better houses, too, have red tiles upon the roofs. 
The common ones have two or three rooms which open into 
each other, and are furnished with a bed or two, a few chairs 
and tables, a looking-glass, a crucifix, and small daubs of paint- 
ings enclosed in glass, representing some miracle or martyr- 
dom. They have no chimneys or fireplaces in the houses, the 
climate being such as to make a fire unnecessary ; and all their 
cooking is done in a small kitchen, separated from the house. 
The Indians, as I have said before, do all the hard work, two 
or three being attached to the better house ; and the poorest 
persons are able to keep one, at least, for they have only to 
feed them, and give them a small piece of coarse cloth and a 
belt for the men, and a coarse gown, without shoes or stock- 
ings, for the women. 

In Monterey there are a number of English and Americans 
(English or Ingles all are called who speak the English lan- 
guage) who have married Californians, become united to the 
Roman Church, and acquired considerable property. Having 
more industry, frugality, and enterprise than the natives, they 
soon get nearly all the trade into their hands. They usually 
keep shops, in which they retail the goods purchased in larger 
quantities from our vessels, and also send a good deal into the 
interior, taking hides in pay, which they again barter with 
our ships. In every town on the coast there are foreigners 
engaged in this kind of trade, while I recollect but two shops 
kept by natives. The people are naturally suspicious of 
foreigners, and they would not be allowed to remain, were 
it not that they conform to the Church, and by marrying 
natives, and bringing up their children as Roman Catholics 
and Mexicans, and not teaching them the English language, 
they quiet suspicion, and even become popular and leading 
men. The chief alcaldes in Monterey and Santa Barbara 
were Yankees by birth. 

The men in Monterey appeared to me to be always on 
horseback. Horses are as abundant here as dogs and chickens 
were in Juan Fernandez. There are no stables to keep them 



88 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

in, but they are allowed to run wild and graze wherever they 
please, being branded, and having long leather ropes, called 
lassos, attached to their necks and dragging along behind them, 
by which they can be easily taken. The men usually catch 
one in the morning, throw a saddle and bridle upon him, and 
use him for the day, and let him go at night, catching another 
the next day. When they go on long journeys, they ride one 
horse down, and catch another, throw the saddle and bridle 
upon him, and, after riding him down, take a third, and so on 
to the end of the journey. There are probably no better riders 
in the world. They are put upon a horse when only four or 
five years old, their little legs not long enough to come half- 
way over his sides, and may almost be said to keep on him until 
they have grown to him. The stirrups are covered or boxed 
up in front, to prevent their catching when riding through 
the woods; and the saddles are large and heavy, strapped 
very tight upon the horse, and have large pommels, or logger- 
heads, in front, round which the lasso is coiled when not in 
use. They can hardly go from one house to another with- 
out mounting a horse, there being generally several standing 
tied to the door-posts of the little cottages. When they wish 
to show their activity, they make no use of their stirrups in 
mounting, but, striking the horse, spring into the saddle as he 
starts, and, sticking their long spurs into him, go off on the 
full run. Their spurs are cruel things, having four or five 
rowels, each an inch in length, dull and rusty. The flanks of 
the horses are often sore from them, and I have seen men 
come in from chasing bullocks, with their horses' hind legs 
and quarters covered with blood. They frequently give ex- 
hibitions of their horsemanship in races, bull-baitings, etc. ; but 
as we were not ashore during any holiday, we saw nothing of 
it. Monterey is also a great place for cock-fighting, gambling 
of all sorts, fandangos, and various kinds of amusement and 
knavery. Trappers and hunters, who occasionally arrive here 
from over the Rocky Mountains, with their valuable skins and 
furs, are often entertained with amusements and dissipation, 



MONTEREY 89 

until they have wasted their opportunities and their money, 
and then go back, stripped of everything. 

Nothing but the character of the people prevents Monterey 
from becoming a large town. The soil is as rich as man 
could wish, climate as good as any in the world, water abun- 
dant, and situation extremely beautiful. The harbour, too, is 
a good one, being subject only to one bad wind, the north ; 
and though the holding-ground is not the best, yet I heard of 
but one vessel's being driven ashore here. That was a Mexi- 
can brig, which went ashore a few months before our arrival, 
and was a total wreck, all the crew but one being drowned. 
Yet this was owing to the carelessness or ignorance of the 
captain, who paid out all his small cable before he let go his 
other anchor. The ship Lagoda, of Boston, was there at the 
time, and rode out the gale in safety, without dragging at all, 
or finding it necessary to strike her top-gallant-masts. 

The only vessel in port with us was the little Loriotte. 
I frequently went on board her, and became well acquainted 
with her Sandwich Island crew. One of them could speak a 
little English, and from him I learned a good deal about them. 
They were well formed and active, with black eyes, intelligent 
countenances, dark olive, or, I should rather say, copper com- 
plexions, and coarse black hair, but not woolly, like the 
negroes. They appeared to be talking continually. In the 
forecastle there was a complete Babel. Their language is 
extremely guttural, and not pleasant at first, but improves as 
you hear it more ; and it is said to have considerable capacity. 
They use a good deal of gesticulation, and are exceedingly 
animated, saying with their might what their tongues find to 
say. They are complete water-dogs, and therefore very good 
in boating. It is for this reason that there are so many of 
them on the coast of California, they being very good hands 
in the surf. They are also ready and active in the rigging, 
and good hands in warm weather ; but those who have been 
with them round Cape Horn, and in high latitudes, say that 
they are of little use in cold weather. In their dress they 



90 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

are precisely like our sailors. In addition to these Islanders, 
the Loriotte had two English sailors, who acted as boatswains 
over the Islanders, and took care of the rigging. One of them 
I shall always remember as the best specimen of the thorough- 
bred English sailor that I ever saw. He had been to sea from 
a boy, having served a regular apprenticeship of seven years, 
as English sailors are obliged to do, and was then about four 
or five and twenty. He was tall ; but you only perceived it 
when he was standing by the side of others, for the great 
breadth of his shoulders and chest made him appear but little 
above the middle height. His chest was as deep as it was 
wide, his arm like that of Hercules, and his hand " the fist of 
a tar — every hair a rope-yarn." With all this, he had one 
of the pleasantest smiles I ever saw. His cheeks were of a 
handsome brown, his teeth brilliantly white, and his hair, of 
a raven black, waved in loose curls all over his head and fine, 
open forehead ; and his eyes he might have sold to a duchess 
at the price of diamonds, for their brilliancy. As for their 
colour, every change of position and light seemed to give them 
a new hue ; but their prevailing colour was black, or nearly so. 
Take him with his well-varnished black tarpaulin, stuck upon 
the back of his head, his long locks coming down almost into 
his eyes, his white duck trousers and shirt, blue jacket, and 
black kerchief, tied loosely round his neck, and he was a fine 
specimen of manly beauty. On his broad chest was stamped 
with India ink '' Parting moments " — a ship ready to sail, a 
boat on the beach, and a girl and her sailor lover taking their 
farewell. Underneath were printed the initials of his own 
name, and two other letters, standing for some name which 
he knew better than I. The printing was very well done, 
having been executed by a man who made it his business to 
print with India ink, for sailors, at Havre. On one of his 
broad arms he had a crucifix, and on the other the sign of 
the "foul anchor." 

He was fond of reading, and we lent him most of the books 
which we had in the forecastle, which he read and returned to 



MONTEREY 9 I 

us the next time we fell in with him. He had a good deal of 
information, and his captain said he was a perfect seaman 
and worth his weight in gold on board a vessel, in fair weather 
and in foul. His strength must have been great, and he had 
the sight of a vulture. It is strange that one should be so 
minute in the description of an unknown, outcast sailor, whom 
one may never see again, and whom no one may care to hear 
about ; yet so it is. Some persons we see under no remark- 
able circumstances, but whom, for some reason or other, we 
never forget. He called himself Bill Jackson ; and I know 
no one of all my accidental acquaintances to whom I would 
more gladly give a shake of the hand than to him. Whoever 
falls in with him will find a handsome, hearty fellow, and a 
good shipmate. 

Sunday came again while we were at Monterey ; but, as 
before, it brought us no holiday. The people on shore dressed 
and came off in greater numbers than ever, and we were em- 
ployed all day in boating and breaking out cargo, so that we 
had hardly time to eat. Our former second mate, who was 
determined to get liberty if it was to be had, dressed himself 
in a long coat and black hat, and polished his shoes, and went 
aft, and asked to go ashore. He could not have done a more 
imprudent thing ; for he knew that no liberty would be given ; 
and, besides, sailors, however sure they may be of having lib- 
erty granted them, always go aft in their working clothes, to 
appear as though they had no reason to expect anything, and 
then wash, dress, and shave after the matter is settled. But 
this poor fellow was always getting into hot water, and if there 
was a wrong way of doing a thing, was sure to hit upon it. 
We looked to see him go aft, knowing pretty well what his 
reception would be. The captain was walking the quarter- 
deck, smoking his morning cigar, and Foster went as far as 
the break of the deck, and there waited for him to notice him. 
The captain took two or three turns, and then, walking directly 
up to him, surveyed him from head to foot, and, lifting up 
his forefinger, said a word or two, in a tone too low for us to 



92 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

hear, but which had a magical effect upon poor Foster. He 
walked forward, jumped down into the forecastle, and in a 
moment more made his appearance in his common clothes, 
and went quietly to work again. What the captain said to 
him, we never could get him to tell, but it certainly changed 
him outwardly and inwardly in a surprising manner. 



CHAPTER XIV 

AFTER a few days, finding the trade beginning to 
slacken, we hove our anchor up, set our top-sails, ran 
the stars and stripes up to the peak, fired a gun, which 
was returned from the Presidio, and left the little town astern, 
standing out of the bay, and bearing down the coast again for 
Santa Barbara. As we were now going to leeward, we had a 
fair wind, and plenty of it. After doubling Point Pinos, we 
bore up, set studding-sails alow and aloft, and were walking off 
at the rate of eight or nine knots, promising to traverse in 
twenty-four hours the distance which we were nearly three 
weeks in traversing on the passage up. We passed Point 
Conception at a flying rate, the wind blowing so that it would 
have seemed half a gale to us if we had been going the other 
way and close hauled. As we drew near the islands of Santa 
Barbara, it died away a little, but we came-to at our old an- 
choring ground in less than thirty hours from the time of 
leaving Monterey. 

Here everything was pretty much as we left it, — the large 
bay without a vessel in it, the surf roaring and rolling in upon 
the beach, the white Mission, the dark town, and the high, 
treeless mountains. Here, too, we had our southeaster tacks 
aboard again, — slip-ropes, buoy-ropes, sails furled with reefs 
in them, and rope-yarns for gaskets. We lay at this place 
about a fortnight, employed in landing goods and taking off 
hides, occasionally, when the surf was not high ; but there did 
not appear to be one half the business doing here that there 
was in Monterey. In fact, so far as we were concerned, the 
town might almost as well have been in the middle of the 
Cordilleras. We lay at a distance of three miles from the 
beach, and the town was nearly a mile farther, so that we saw 

93 



94 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

little or nothing of it. Occasionally we landed a few goods, 
which were taken away by Indians in large, clumsy ox-carts, 
with the bow of the yoke on the ox's neck instead of under it, 
and with small solid wheels. A few hides were brought down, 
which were carried off in the California style. This we had 
now got pretty well accustomed to, and hardened to also ; for 
it does require a little hardening, even to the toughest. 

The hides are brought down dry, or they will not be re- 
ceived. When they are taken from the animal, they have 
holes cut in the ends, and are staked out, and thus dried in 
the sun without shrinking. They are then doubled once, 
lengthwise, with the hair side usually in, and sent down upon 
mules or in carts, and piled above high-water mark; and then 
we take them upon our heads, one at a time, or two, if they 
are small, and wade out with them and throw them into the 
boat, which, as there are no wharves, we usually kept anchored 
by a small kedge, or keelek, just outside of the surf. We all 
provided ourselves with thick Scotch caps, which would be soft 
to the head, and at the same time protect it; for we soon 
learned that, however it might look or feel at first, the " head- 
work " was the only system for California. For besides that 
the seas, breaking high, often obliged us to carry the hides so, 
in order to keep them dry, we found that, as they were very 
large and heavy, and nearly as stiff as boards, it was the only 
way that we could carry them with any convenience to our- 
selves. Some of the crew tried other expedients, saying 
that that looked too much like West India negroes ; but they 
all came to it at last. The great art is in getting them on the 
head. We had to take them from the ground, and as they 
were often very heavy, and as wide as the arms could stretch, 
and were easily taken by the wind, we used to have some 
trouble with them. I have often been laughed at myself, and 
joined in laughing at others, pitching ourselves down in the 
sand, in trying to swing a large hide upon our heads, or nearly 
blown over with one in a little gust of wind. The captain 
made it harder for us, by telling us that it was "California 



HIDE DROGHING 95 

fashion " to carry two on the head at a time ; and as he in- 
sisted upon it, and we did not wish to be outdone by other 
vessels, we carried two for the first few months ; but after fall- 
ing in with a few other "hide droghers," and finding that they 
carried only one at a time, we "knocked off" the extra one, 
and thus made our duty somewhat easier. 

After our heads had become used to the weight, and we 
had learned the true California style of tossing a hide, we 
could carry off two or three hundred in a short time, without 
much trouble ; but it was always wet work, and, if the beach 
was stony, bad for our feet ; for we, of course, went barefooted 
on this duty, as no shoes could stand such constant wetting 
with salt water. And after this, we had a pull of three miles, 
with a loaded boat, which often took a couple of hours. 

We had now got well settled down into our harbour duties, 
which, as they are a good deal different from those at sea, it 
may be well enough to describe. In the first place, all hands 
are called at daylight, or rather — especially if the days are 
short — before daylight, as soon as the first gray of the morn- 
ing. The cook makes his fire in the galley; the steward 
goes about his work in the cabin ; and the crew rig the head 
pump, and wash down the decks. The chief mate is always 
on deck, but takes no active part, all the duty coming upon 
the second mate, who has to roll up his trousers and paddle 
about decks barefooted, like the rest of the crew. The wash- 
ing, swabbing, squilgeeing, etc., lasts, or is made to last, until 
eight o'clock, when breakfast is ordered, fore and aft. After 
breakfast for which half an hour is allowed, the boats are 
lowered down, and made fast astern, or out to the swinging 
booms by geswarps, and the crew are turned-to upon their 
day's work. This is various, and its character depends upon 
circumstances. There is always more or less of boating, in 
small boats ; and if heavy goods are to be taken ashore, or 
hides are brought down to the beach for us, then all hands 
are sent ashore with an officer in the long-boat. Then there 
is a good deal to be done in the hold, — goods to be broken 



90 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

out, and cargo to be shifted, to make room for hides, or to 
keep the trim of the vessel. In addition to this, the usual 
work upon the rigging must be going on. There is much of 
the latter kind of work which can only be done when the ves- 
sel is in port. Everything, too, must be kept taut and in 
good order, — spun-yarn made, chafing gear repaired, and all 
the other ordinary work. The great difference between sea 
and harbour duty is in the division of time. Instead of having a 
watch on deck and a watch below, as at sea, all hands are at work 
together, except at meal-times, from daylight till dark ; and at 
night an "anchor watch" is kept, which, with us, consisted 
of only two at a time, all the crew taking turns. An hour is 
allowed for dinner, and at dark the decks are cleared up, the 
boats hoisted, supper ordered ; and at eight the lights are put 
out, except in the binnacle, where the glass stands ; and the 
anchor watch is set. Thus, when at anchor, the crew have 
more time at night (standing watch only about two hours), 
but have no time to themselves in the day ; so that reading, 
mending clothes, etc., has to be put off until Sunday, which is 
usually given. Some religious captains give their crews Satur- 
day afternoons to do their washing and mending in, so that they 
may have their Sundays free. This is a good arrangement, 
and goes far to account for the preference sailors usually show 
for vessels under such command. We were well satisfied if 
we got even Sunday to ourselves ; for, if any hides came down 
on that day, as was often the case when they were brought 
from a distance, we were obliged to take them off, which 
usually occupied half a day ; besides, as we now lived on fresh 
beef, and ate one bullock a week, the animal was almost always 
brought down on Sunday, and we had to go ashore, kill it, 
dress it, and bring it aboard, which was another interruption. 
Then, too, our common day's work was protracted and made 
more fatiguing by hides coming down late in the afternoon, 
which sometimes keep us at work in the surf by starlight, with 
the prospect of pulling on board, and stowing them all away, 
before supper. 



DISCONTENT 97 

But all these little vexations and labours would have been 
nothing, — they would have been passed by as the common 
evils of a sea life, which every sailor, who is a man, will go 
through without complaint, — were it not for the uncertainty, 
or worse than uncertainty, which hung over the nature and 
length of our voyage. Here we were, in a little vessel, with 
a small crew, on a half civilized coast, at the ends of the earth, 
and with a prospect of remaining an indefinite period, — two 
or three years at the least. When we left Boston, we sup- 
posed that ours was to be a voyage of eighteen months, or two 
years, at most ; but, upon arriving on the coast, we learned 
something more of the trade, and found that, in the scarcity 
of hides, which was yearly greater and greater, it would take 
us a year, at least, to collect our own cargo, beside the passage 
out and home ; and that we were also to collect a cargo for a 
large ship belonging to the same firm, which was soon to come 
on the coast, and to which we were to act as tender. We had 
heard rumours of such a ship to follow us, which had leaked 
out from the captain and mate, but we passed them by as mere 
"yarns," till our arrival, when they were confirmed by the 
letters which we brought from the owners to their agent. 
The ship California, belonging to the same firm, had been 
nearly two years on the coast, getting a full cargo, and was 
now at San Diego, from which port she was expected to sail 
in a few weeks for Boston ; and we were to collect all the hides 
we could, and deposit them at San Diego, when the new ship, 
which would carry forty thousand, was to be filled and sent 
home ; and then we were to begin anew upon our own cargo. 
Here was a gloomy prospect indeed. The Lagoda, a smaller 
ship than the California, carrying only thirty-one or thirty-two 
thousand, had been two years getting her cargo ; and we were 
to collect a cargo of forty thousand beside our own, which would 
be twelve or fifteen thousand ; and hides were said to be grow- 
ing scarcer. Then, too, this ship, which had been to us a 
worse phantom than any flying Dutchman, was no phantom, 
or ideal things but had been reduced to a certainty ; so much 



98 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

SO that a name was given her, and it was said that she was to 
be the Alert, a well-known Indiaman, which was expected in 
Boston in a few months, when we sailed. There could be no 
doubt, and all looked black enough. Hints were thrown out 
about three years and four years ; the older sailors said they 
never should see Boston again, but should lay their bones in 
California ; and a cloud seemed to hang over the whole voy- 
age. Besides, we were not provided for so long a voyage, and 
clothes, and all sailors' necessaries, were excessively dear, — 
three or four hundred per cent advance upon the Boston prices. 
This was bad enough for the crew ; but still worse was it for 
me, who did not mean to be a sailor for life, having intended 
only to be gone eighteen months or two years. Three or four 
years might make me a sailor in every respect, mind and habits, 
as well as body, nolens volens, and would put all my com- 
panions so far ahead of me that a college degree and a pro- 
fession would be in vain to think of ; and I made up my mind 
that, feel as I might, a sailor I might have to be, and to com- 
mand a merchant vessel might be the limit of my ambition. 

Beside the length of the voyage, and the hard and exposed 
life, we were in the remote parts of the earth, on an almost 
desert coast, in a country where there is neither law nor gos- 
pel, and where sailors are at their captain's mercy, there being 
no American consul, or any one to whom a complaint could 
be made. We lost all interest in the voyage, cared nothing 
about the cargo, which we were only collecting for others, 
began to patch our clothes, and felt as though our fate was 
fixed beyond all hope of change. 

In addition to, and perhaps partly as a consequence of, this 
state of things, there was trouble brewing on board the vessel. 
Our mate (as the first mate is always called, par excellence) 
was a worthy man, — a more honest, upright, and kind-hearted 
man I never saw, — but he was too easy and amiable for the 
mate of a merchantman. He was not the man to call a sailor 
a "son of a bitch," and knock him down with a handspike. 
Perhaps he really lacked the energy and spirit for such a voy- 



DISCONTENT 99 

age as ours, and for such a captain. Captain Thompson was 
a vigorous, energetic fellow. As sailors say, "he hadn't a 
lazy bone in him." He was made of steel and whalebone. 
He was a man to "toe the mark," and to make every one else 
step up to it. During all the time that I was with him, I 
never saw him sit down on deck. He was always active and 
driving, severe in his discipline, and expected the same of his 
officers. The mate not being enough of a driver for him, he 
was dissatisfied with him, became suspicious that discipline 
was getting relaxed, and began to interfere in everything. He 
drew the reins tighter ; and as, in all quarrels between officers, 
the sailors side with the one who treats them best, he became 
suspicious of the crew. He saw that things went wrong, — that 
nothing was done "with a will " ; and in his attempt to remedy 
the difficulty by severity he made everything worse. We were 
in all respects unfortunately situated, — captain, officers, and 
crew, entirely unfitted for one another ; and every circum- 
stance and event was like a two-edged sword, and cut both 
ways. The length of the voyage, which made us dissatisfied, 
made the captain, at the same time, see the necessity of order 
and strict discipline ; and the nature of the country, which 
caused us to feel that we had nowhere to go for redress, but 
were at the mercy of a hard master, made the captain under- 
stand, on the other hand, that he must depend entirely upon 
his own resources. Severity created discontent, and signs of 
discontent provoked severity. Then, too, ill-treatment and 
dissatisfaction are no " linimenta laborum " ; and many a time 
have I heard the sailors say that they should not mind the 
length of the voyage, and the hardships, if they were only 
kindly treated, and if they could feel that something was done 
to make work lighter and life easier. We felt as though our 
situation was a call upon our superiors to give us occasional 
relaxations, and to make our yoke easier. But the opposite 
policy was pursued. We were kept at work all day when in 
port ; which, together with a watch at night, made us glad to 
turn-in as soon as we got below. Thus we had no time for 



lOO TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

reading, or — which was of more importance to us — for wash- 
ing and mending our clothes. And then, when we were at 
sea, saihng from port to port, instead of giving us '' watch and 
watch," as was the custom on board every other vessel on the 
coast, we were all kept on deck and at work, rain or shine, 
making spun-yarn and rope, and at other work in good weather, 
and picking oakum, when it was too wet for anything else. All 
hands were called to "come up and see it rain," and kept on 
deck hour after hour in a drenching rain, standing round the 
deck so far apart so as to prevent our talking with one another, 
with our tarpaulins and oil-cloth jackets on, picking old rope 
to pieces, or laying up gaskets and robands. This was often 
done, too, when we were lying in port with two anchors down, 
and no necessity for more than one man on deck as a lookout. 
This is what is called *' hazing" a crew, and "working their 
old iron up." 

While lying at Santa Barbara, we encountered another 
southeaster ; and, like the first, it came on in the night ; the 
great black clouds moving round from the southward, cover- 
ing the mountain, and hanging down over the town, appearing 
almost to rest upon the roofs of the houses. We made sail, 
slipped our cable, cleared the point, and beat about for four 
days in the offing, under close sail, with continual rain and 
high seas and winds. No wonder, thought we, they have no 
rain in the other seasons, for enough seemed to have fallen in 
those four days to last through a common summer. On the 
fifth day it cleared up, after a few hours, as is usual of rain 
coming down like a four hours' shower-bath, and we found 
ourselves drifted nearly ten leagues from the anchorage ; and, 
having light head winds, we did not return until the sixth day. 
Having recovered our anchor, we made preparations for get- 
ting under way to go down to leeward. We had hoped to go 
directly to San Diego, and thus fall in with the California 
before she sailed for Boston ; but our orders were to stop at 
an intermediate port called San Pedro ; and, as we were to lie 
there a week or two, and the California was to sail in a few 



SAN PEDRO lOI 

days, we lost the opportunity. Just before sailing, the cap- 
tain took on board a short, red-haired, round-shouldered, vulgar- 
looking fellow, who had lost one eye and squinted with the 
other, and, introducing him as Mr. Russell, told us that he 
was an officer on board. This was too bad. We had lost 
overboard, on the passage, one of the best of our number, 
another had been taken from us and appointed clerk, and thus 
weakened and reduced, instead of shipping some hands to 
make our work easier, he had put another officer over us, to 
watch and drive us. We had now four officers, and only six 
in the forecastle. This was bringing her too much down by 
the stern for our comfort. 

Leaving Santa Barbara, we coasted along down, the country 
appearing level or moderately uneven, and, for the most part, 
sandy and treeless ; until, doubling a high sandy point, we let 
go our anchor at a distance of three or three and a half miles 
from shore. It was like a vessel bound to St. John's, New- 
foundland, coming to anchor on the Grand Banks ; for the 
shore, being low, appeared to be at a greater distance than it 
actually was, and we thought we might as well have stayed at 
Santa Barbara, and sent our boat down for the hides. The 
land was of a clayey quality, and, as far as the eye could reach, 
entirely bare of trees and even shrubs ; and there was no sign 
of a town — not even a house to be seen. What brought us 
into such a place, we could not conceive. No sooner had we 
come to anchor, than the slip-rope, and the other preparations 
for southeasters, were got ready ; and there was reason enough 
for it, for we lay exposed to every wind that could blow, except 
the northerly winds, and they came over a flat country with a 
rake of more than a league of water. As soon as everything was 
snug on board, the boat was lowered, and we pulled ashore, 
our new officer, who had been several times in the port before, 
taking the place of steersman. As we drew in, we found the 
tide low, and the rocks and stones, covered with kelp and 
seaweed, lying bare for the distance of nearly an eighth of a 
mile. Leaving the boat, and picking our way barefooted over 



I02 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

these, we came to what is called the landing-place, at high- 
water mark. The soil was, as it appeared at first, loose and 
clayey, and, except the stalks of the mustard plant, there was 
no vegetation. Just in front of the landing, and immediately 
over it, was a small hill, which, from its being not more than 
thirty or forty feet high, we had not perceived from our 
anchorage. Over this hill we saw three men coming down, 
dressed partly like sailors and partly like Californians ; one of 
them having on a pair of untanned leather trousers and a red 
baize shirt. When they reached us, we found that they were 
Englishmen. They told us that they had belonged to a small 
Mexican brig which had been driven ashore here in a south- 
easter, and now lived in a small house just over the hill. 
Going up this hill with them, we saw, close behind it, a small, 
low building, with one room, containing a fireplace, cooking 
apparatus, etc., and the rest of it unfinished, and used as a 
place to store hides and goods. This, they told us was built 
by some traders in the Pueblo (a town about thirty miles in 
the interior, to which this was the port), and used by them as a 
storehouse, and also as a lodging place when they came down to 
trade with the vessels. These three men were employed by them 
to keep the house in order, and to look out for the things 
stored in it. They said that they had been there nearly a 
year ; had nothing to do most of the time, living upon beef, 
hard bread, and frijoles, a peculiar kind of bean, very abun- 
dant in California. The nearest house, they told us, was a 
Rancho, or cattle-farm, about three miles off ; and one of them 
went there, at the request of our officer, to order a horse to 
be sent down, with which the agent, who was on board, might 
go up to the Pueblo. From one of them, who was an intelli- 
gent English sailor, I learned a good deal in a few minutes' 
conversation, about the place, its trade, and the news from 
the southern ports. San Diego, he said, was about eighty 
miles to the leeward of San Pedro ; that they had heard from 
there, by a Mexican who came up on horseback, that the 
California had sailed for Boston, and that the Lagoda, which 



SAN PEDRO 105 

had been in San Pedro only a few weeks before, was taking 
in her cargo for Boston. The Ayacucho was also there, load- 
ing for Callao ; and the little Loriotte, which had run directly 
down from Monterey, where we left her. San Diego, he told 
me, was a small, snug place, having very little trade, but 
decidedly the best harbour on the coast, being completely 
land-locked, and the water as smooth as a duck-pond. This 
was the depot for all the vessels engaged in the trade ; each 
one having a large house there, built of rough boards, in which 
they stowed their hides as fast as they collected them in their 
trips up and down the coast, and when they had procured a 
full cargo, spent a few weeks there taking it in, smoking ship, 
laying in wood and water, and making other preparations for 
the voyage home. The Lagoda was now about this business. 
When we should be about it was more than I could tell, — 
two years, at least, I thought to myself. 

I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking 
place we were in furnished more hides than any port on the 
coast. It was the only port for a distance of eighty miles, and 
about thirty miles in the interior was a fine plane country, filled 
with herds of cattle, in the centre of which was the Pueblo de 
los Angeles, — the largest town in California, — and several 
of the wealthiest missions ; to all of which San Pedro was the 
seaport. 

Having made arrangements for a horse to take the agent 
to the Pueblo the next day, we picked our way again over the 
green, slippery rocks, and pulled toward the brig, which was so 
far off that we could hardly see her, in the increasing darkness ; 
and when we got on board the boats were hoisted up, and the 
crew at supper. Going down into the forecastle, eating our 
supper, and lighting our cigars and pipes, we had, as usual, to 
tell what we had seen or heard ashore. We all agreed that it 
was the worst place we had seen yet, especially for getting off 
hides, and our lying off at so great a distance looked as though 
it was bad for southeasters. After a few disputes as to whether 
we should have to carry our goods up the hill, or not, we talked 



I04 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

of San Diego, the probability of seeing the Lagoda before she 
sailed, etc. 

The next day we pulled the agent ashore, and he went up 
to visit the Pueblo and the neighbouring missions ; and in a few 
days, as the result of his labours, large ox-carts, and droves of 
mules, loaded with hides, were seen coming over the flat 
country. We loaded our long-boat with goods of all kinds, 
light and heavy, and pulled ashore. After landing and rolling 
them over the stones upon the beach, we stopped, waiting for 
the carts to come down the hill and take them ; but the cap- 
tain soon settled the matter by ordering us to carry them all 
up to the top, saying that that was " California fashion." So, 
what the oxen would not do, we were obliged to do. The hill 
was low, but steep, and the earth being clayey and wet with 
the recent rains, was but bad holding-ground for our feet. 
The heavy barrels and casks we rolled up with some difficulty, 
getting behind and putting our shoulders to them ; now and 
then our feet, slipping, added to the danger of the casks roll- 
ing back upon us. But the greatest trouble was with the large 
boxes of sugar. These we had to place upon oars, and, lifting 
them up, rest the oars upon our shoulders, and creep slowly up 
the hill with the gait of a funeral procession. After an hour 
or two of hard work, we got them all up, and found the carts 
standing full of hides, which we had to unload, and to load the 
carts again with our own goods ; the lazy Indians, who came 
down with them, squatting on their hams, looking on, doing 
nothing, and when we asked them to help us, only shaking 
their heads, or drawling out " no quiero." 

Having loaded the carts, we started up the Indians, who 
went off, one on each side of the oxen, with long sticks, 
sharpened at the end, to punch them with. This is one of 
the means of saving labour in California, — two Indians to two 
oxen. Now, the hides were to be got down ; and for this pur- 
pose we brought the boat round to a place where the hill was 
steeper, and threw them off, letting them slide over the slope. 
Many of them lodged, and we had to let ourselves down and 



SAN PEDRO 105 

set them a-going again, and in this way became covered with 
dust, and our clothes torn. After we had the hides all down, 
we were obliged to take them on our heads, and walk over the 
stones, and through the water, to the boat. The water and 
the stones together would wear out a pair of shoes a day, and 
as shoes were very scarce and very dear, we were compelled to 
go barefooted. At night we went on board, having had the 
hardest and most disagreeable day's work that we had yet ex- 
perienced. For several days we were employed in this man- 
ner, until we had landed forty or fifty tons of goods, and 
brought on board about two thousand hides, when the trade 
began to slacken, and we were kept at work on board during 
the latter part of the week, either in the hold or upon the 
rigging. On Thursday night there was a violent blow from 
the northward ; but as this was off-shore, we had only to let go 
our other anchor and hold on. We were called up at night to 
send down the royal-yards. It was as dark as a pocket, and 
the vessel pitching at her anchors. I went up to the fore, and 
Stimson to the main, and we soon had them down " ship-shape 
and Bristol fashion " ; for, as we had now become used to our 
duty aloft, everything above the cross-trees was left to us, who 
were the youngest of the crew, except one boy. 



CHAPTER XV 

FOR several days the captain seemed very much out 
of humour. Nothing went right, or fast enough for 
him. He quarrelled with the cook, and threatened to 
flog him for throwing wood on deck, and had a dispute with the 
mate about reeving a Spanish burton ; the mate saying that he 
was right, and had been taught how to do it by a man who 
was a sailor ! This the captain took in dudgeon, and they were 
at swords' points at once. But his displeasure was chiefly 
turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow from the Middle 
States, who was called Sam. This man hesitated in his 
speech, was rather slow in his motions, and was only a toler- 
ably good sailor, but usually seemed to do his best ; yet the 
captain took a dislike to him, thought he was surly and lazy, 
and "if you once give a dog a bad name," — as the sailor- 
phrase is, — "he may as well jump overboard." The captain 
found fault with everything this man did, and hazed him for 
dropping a marline-spike from the main-yard, where he was at 
work. This, of course, was an accident, but it was set down 
against him. The captain was on board all day Friday, and 
everything went on hard and disagreeably. "The more you 
drive a man, the less he will do," was as true with us as with 
any other people. We worked late Friday night, and were 
turned-to early Saturday morning. About ten o'clock the 
captain ordered our new officer, Russell, who by this time 
had become thoroughly disliked by all the crew, to get the gig 
ready to take him ashore. John, the Swede, was sitting in 
the boat alongside, and Mr. Russell and I were standing by 
the main hatchway, waiting for the captain, who was down in 
the hold, where the crew were at work, when we heard his 
voice raised in violent dispute with somebody, whether it was 

1 06 



FLOGGING 107 

with the mate or one of the crew I could not tell, and then 
came blows and scuffling. I ran to the side and beckoned to 
John, who came aboard, and we leaned down the hatchway, 
and though we could see no one, yet we knew that the captain 
had the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear : — 

" You see your condition ! You see your condition ! Will 
you ever give me any more of your jaw ? " No answer ; and 
them came wrestling and heaving, as though the man was try- 
ing to turn him. " You may as well keep still, for I have got 
you," said the captain. Then came the question, " Will you 
ever give me any more of your jaw .? " 

" I never gave you any, sir," said Sam ; for it was his voice 
that we heard, though low and half choked. 

*' That 's not what I ask you. Will you ever be impudent 
to me again ? " 

"I never have been, sir," said Sam. 

" Answer my question, or I '11 make a spread eagle of you ! 
1 11 flog you, by G— d." 

" I 'm no negro slave," said Sam. 

"Then I '11 make you one," said the captain ; and he came 
to the hatchway, and sprang on deck, threw off his coat, and, 
rolling up his sleeves, called out to the mate : " Seize that 
man up, Mr. Amerzene! Seize him up! Make a spread 
eagle of him ! I '11 teach you all who is master aboard ! " 

The crew and officers followed the captain up the hatch- 
way ; but it was not until after repeated orders that the mate 
laid hold of Sam, who made no resistance, and carried him to 
the gangway. 

" What are you going to flog that man for, sir } " said John, 
the Swede, to the captain. 

Upon hearing this, the captain turned upon John ; but, 
knowing him to be quick and resolute, he ordered the steward 
to bring the irons, and, calling upon Russell to help him, went 
up to John. 

" Let me alone," said John. " I 'm willing to be put in 
irons. You need not use any force " ; and, putting out his 



I08 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

hands, the captain slipped the irons on, and sent him aft to 
the quarter-deck. Sam, by this time, was seized up, as it is 
called, that is, placed against the shrouds, with his wrists made 
fast to them, his jacket off, and his back exposed. The cap- 
tain stood on the break of the deck, a few feet from him, and 
a little raised, so as to have a good swing at him, and held in 
his hand the end of a thick, strong rope. The officers stood 
round, and the crew grouped together in the waist. All these 
preparations made me feel sick and almost faint, angry and 
excited as I was. A man — a human being, made in God's 
likeness — fastened up and flogged like a beast ! A man, too, 
whom I had lived with, eaten with, and stood watch with for 
months, and knew so well ! If a thought of resistance crossed 
the minds of any of the men, what was to be done .-* Their 
time for it had gone by. Two men were fast, and there were 
left only two men besides Stimson and myself, and a small 
boy of ten or twelve years of age ; and Stimson and I would 
not have joined the men in a mutiny, as they knew. And 
then, on the other side, there were (beside the captain) three 
officers, steward, agent, and clerk, and the cabin supplied with 
weapons. But beside the numbers, what is there for sailors 
to do } If they resist, it is mutiny ; and if they succeed, and 
take the vessel, it is piracy. If they ever yield again, their 
punishment must come ; and if they do not yield, what are 
they to be for the rest of their lives .? If a sailor resist his 
commander, he resists the law, and piracy or submission is his 
only alternative. Bad as it was, they saw it must be borne. 
It is what a sailor ships for. Swinging the rope over his head, 
and bending his body so as to give it full force, the captain 
brought it down upon the poor fellow's back. Once, twice, 
— six times. *' Will you ever give me any more of your jaw .? " 
The man writhed with pain, but said not a word. Three times 
more. This was too much, and he muttered something which 
I could not hear ; this brought as many more as the man could 
stand, when the captain ordered him to be cut down, and to 
go forward. 



FLOGGING 109 

" Now for you," said the captain, making up to John, and 
taking his irons off. As soon as John was loose, he ran for- 
ward to the forecastle. " Bring that man aft ! " shouted the 
captain. The second mate, who had been in the forecastle 
with these men the early part of the voyage, stood still in the 
waist, and the mate walked slowly forward ; but our third 
officer, anxious to show his zeal, sprang forward over the wind- 
lass, and laid hold of John ; but John soon threw him from 
him. The captain stood on the quarter-deck, bareheaded, his 
eyes flashing with rage, and his face as red as blood, swinging 
the rope, and calling out to his officers : " Drag him aft ! — 
Lay hold of him ! I '11 sweeten him ! " etc. The mate 
now went forward, and told John quietly to go aft ; and he, 
seeing resistance vain, threw the blackguard third mate from 
him, said he would go aft of himself, that they should not 
drag him, and went up to the gangway and held out his hands ; 
but as soon as the captain began to make him fast, the indig- 
nity was too much, and he struggled ; but, the mate and 
Russell holding him, he was soon seized up. When he was made 
fast, he turned to the captain, who stood rolling up his sleeves 
and getting ready for the blow, and asked him what he was to 
be flogged for. " Have I ever refused my duty, sir ? Have 
you ever known me to hang back, or to be insolent, or not 
to know my work ? " 

" No," said the captain, "it is not that that I flog you for ; 
I flog you for your interference, for asking questions." 

" Can't a man ask a question here without being 
flogged.?" 

"No," shouted the captain; "nobody shall open his mouth 
aboard this vessel but myself," and began laying the blows 
upon his back, swinging half round between each blow, to 
give it full effect. As he went on, his passion increased, and 
he danced about the deck, calling out, as he swung the rope : 
" If you want to know what I flog you for, I '11 tell you. It 's 
because I like to do it ! — because I like to do it ! — It suits 
me ! That 's what I do it for ! " 



no TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

The man writhed under the pain until he could endure it 
no longer, when he called out, with an exclamation more com- 
mon among foreigners than with us : " O Jesus Christ ! 
O Jesus Christ ! " 

** Don't call on Jesus Christ," shouted the captain; "he 
can't help you. Call on Frank Thompson ! He 's the man ! 
He can help you ! Jesus Christ can't help you now ! " 

At these words, which I never shall forget, my blood ran 
cold. I could look on no longer. Disgusted, sick, I turned 
away, and leaned over the rail, and looked down into the 
water. A few rapid thoughts, I don't know what, — our situ- 
ation, a resolution to see the captain punished when we got 
home, — crossed my mind ; but the falling of the blows and 
the cries of the man called me back once more. At length 
they ceased, and, turning round, I found that the mate, at a 
signal from the captain, had cast him loose. Almost doubled 
up with pain, the man walked slowly forward, and went down 
into the forecastle. Every one else stood still at his post, while 
the captain, swelling with rage, and with the importance of his 
achievement, walked the quarter-deck, and at each turn, as he 
came forward, calling out to us : " You see your condition ! 
You see where I 've got you all, and you know what to 
expect ! " — " You 've been mistaken in me ; you did n't know 
what I was ! Now you know what I am ! " — "I '11 make you 
toe the mark, every soul of you, or I '11 flog you all, fore and 
aft, from the boy up ! " — " You 've got a driver over you ! 
Yes, a slave-driver, — a nigger-driver ! I '11 see who '11 tell 
me he is n't a nigger slave ! " With this and the like matter, 
equally calculated to quiet us, and to allay any apprehensions 
of future trouble, he entertained us for about ten minutes, 
when he went below. Soon after John came aft, with his 
bare back covered with stripes and wales in every direction, 
and dreadfully swollen, and asked the steward to ask the cap- 
tain to let him have some salve, or balsam, to put upon it. 
" No," said the captain, who heard him from below ; " tell 
him to put his shirt on ; that 's the best thing for him, and pull 



FLOGGING 1 1 1 

me ashore in the boat. Nobody is going to lay-up on board 
this vessel." He then called to Mr. Russell to take those 
two men and two others in the boat, and pull him ashore. I 
went for one. The two men could hardly bend their backs, 
and the captain called to them to "give way," "give way!" 
but, finding they did their best, he let them alone. The agent 
was in the stern sheets, but during the whole pull — a league 
or more — not a word was spoken. We landed ; the captain, 
agent, and officer went up to the house, and left us with the 
boat. I, and the man with me, stayed near the boat, 
while John and Sam walked slowly away, and sat down on 
the rocks. They talked some time together, but at length 
separated, each sitting alone. I had some fears of John. He 
was a foreigner, and violently tempered, and under suffering ; 
and he had his knife with him, and the captain was to come 
down alone to the boat. But nothing happened ; and we went 
quietly on board. The captain was probably armed, and if 
either of them had lifted a hand against him, they would have 
had nothing before them but flight and starvation in the woods 
of California, or capture by the soldiers and Indians, whom 
the offer of twenty dollars would have set upon them. 

After the day's work was done, we went down into the fore- 
castle, and ate our plain supper ; but not a word was spoken. 
It was Saturday night; but there was no song, — no "sweet- 
hearts and wives." A gloom was over everything. The two 
men lay in their berths, groaning with pain, and we all turned 
in, but, for myself, not to sleep. A sound coming now and 
then from the berths of the two men showed that they were 
awake, as awake they must have been, for they could hardly 
lie in one posture long ; the dim, swinging lamp shed its light 
over the dark hole in which we lived, and many and various 
reflections and purposes coursed through my mind. I had no 
apprehension that the captain would try to lay a hand on me ; 
but our situation, living under a tyranny, with an ungoverned, 
swaggering fellow administering it ; of the character of the 
country we were in ; the length of the voyage ; the uncertainty 



112 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

attending our return to America; and then, if we should 
return, the prospect of obtaining justice and satisfaction for 
these poor men ; and I vowed that, if God should ever give 
me the means, I would do something to redress the grievances 
and relieve the sufferings of that class of beings with whom 
my lot had so long been cast. 

The next day was Sunday. We worked, as usual, washing 
decks, etc., until breakfast-time. After breakfast we pulled 
the captain ashore, and, finding some hides there which had 
been brought down the night before, he ordered me to stay 
ashore and watch them, saying that the boat would come again 
before night. They left me, and I spent a quiet day on the 
hill, eating dinner with the three men at the little house. Un- 
fortunately they had no books ; and, after talking with them, 
and walking about, I began to grow tired of doing nothing. 
The little brig, the home of so much hardship and suffering, lay 
in the offing, almost as far* as one could see ; and the only other 
thing which broke the surface of the great bay was a small, 
dreary-looking island, steep and conical, of a clayey soil, and 
without the sign of vegetable life upon it, yet which had a 
peculiar and melancholy interest, for on the top of it were 
buried the remains of an Englishman, the commander of a 
small merchant brig, who died while lying in this port. It 
was always a solemn and affecting spot to me. There it stood, 
desolate, and in the midst of desolation ; and there were the 
remains of one who died and was buried alone and friendless. 
Had it been a common burying-place, it would have been 
nothing. The single body corresponded well with the solitary 
character of everything around. It was the only spot in Cali- 
fornia that impressed me with anything like poetic interest. 
Then, too, the man died far from home, without a friend near 
him, — by poison, it was suspected, and no one to inquire into 
it, — and without proper funeral rites ; the mate (as I was 
told), glad to have him out of the way, hurrying him up the 
hill and into the ground, without a word or a prayer. 

I looked anxiously for a boat, during the latter part of the 



NIGHT ON SHORE II3 

afternoon, but none came ; until toward sundown, when I saw 
a speck on the water, and as it drew near I found it was the 
gig, with the captain. The hides, then, were not to go off. 
The captain came up the hill, with a man bringing my monkey 
jacket and a blanket. He looked pretty black, but inquired 
whether I had enough to eat ; told me to make a house out of 
the hides, and keep myself warm, as I should have to sleep 
there among them, and to keep good watch over them. I got 
a moment to speak to the man who brought my jacket. 

" How do things go aboard } " said I. 

"Bad enough," said he ; "hard work and not a kind word 
spoken." 

" What ! " said I, " have you been at work all day >" 

" Yes ! no more Sunday for us. Everything has been 
moved in the hold, from stem to stern, and from the water- 
ways to the keelson." 

I went up to the house to supper. We had frijoles (the 
perpetual food of the Californians, but which, when well 
cooked, are the best bean in the world), coffee made of burnt 
wheat, and hard bread. After our meal, the three men sat 
down by the light of a tallow candle, with a pack of greasy 
Spanish cards, to the favorite game of "treinta uno," a sort 
of Spanish " everlasting." I left them and went out to take 
up my bivouac among the hides. It was now dark ; the vessel 
was hidden from sight, and except the three men in the house 
there was not a living soul within a league. The coyotes (a 
wild animal of a nature and appearance between that of the 
fox and the wolf) set up their sharp, quick bark, and two owls, 
at the end of two distant points running out into the bay, on 
different sides of the hill where I lay, kept up their alternate 
dismal notes. I had heard the sound before at night, but did 
not know what it was, until one of the men, who came down 
to look at my quarters, told me it was the owl. Mellowed by 
the distance, and heard alone, at night, it was a most melan- 
choly and boding sound. Through nearly all the night they 
kept it up, answering one another slowly at regular intervals. 



114 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

This was relieved by the noisy coyotes, some of which came 
quite near to my quarters, and were not very pleasant neigh- 
bours. The next morning, before sunrise, the long-boat came 
ashore, and the hides were taken off. 

We lay at San Pedro about a week, engaged in taking off 
hides and in other labours, which had now become our regular 
duties. I spent one more day on the hill, watching a quantity 
of hides and goods, and this time succeeded in finding a part 
of a volume of Scott's Pirate, in a corner of the house ; but it 
failed me at a most interesting moment, and I betook myself 
to my acquaintances on shore, and from them learned a good 
deal about the customs of the country, the harbours, etc. 
This, they told me, was a worse harbour than Santa Barbara 
for southeasters, the bearing of the headland being a point 
and a half more to windward, and it being so shallow that the 
sea broke often as far out as where we lay at anchor. The 
gale for which we slipped at Santa Barbara had been so bad 
a one here, that the whole bay, for a league out, was filled 
with the foam of the breakers, and seas actually broke over 
the Dead Man's Island. The Lagoda was lying there, and 
slipped at the first alarm, and in such haste that she was 
obliged to leave her launch behind her at anchor. The little 
boat rode it out for several hours, pitching at her anchor, and 
standing with her stern up almost perpendicularly. The men 
told me that they watched her till towards night, when she 
snapped her cable and drove up over the breakers high and 
dry upon the beach. 

On board the Pilgrim everything went on regularly, each 
one trying to get along as smoothly as possible ; but the com- 
fort of the voyage was evidently at an end. " That is a long 
lane which has no turning," " Every dog must have his day, 
and mine will come by and by," and the like proverbs, were 
occasionally quoted ; but no one spoke of any probable end to 
the voyage, or of Boston, or anything of the kind ; or, if he 
did, it was only to draw out the perpetual surly reply from his 
shipmate : " Boston, is it } You may thank your stars if you 



STATE OF THINGS ON BOARD I15 

ever see that place. You had better have your back sheathed, 
and your head coppered, and your feet shod, and make out 
your log for California for life ! " or else something of this 
kind : '' Before you get to Boston, the hides will wear all the 
hair off your head, and you '11 take up all your wages in clothes, 
and won't have enough left to buy a wig with ! " 

The flogging was seldom, if ever, alluded to by us in the 
forecastle. If any one was inclined to talk about it, the others, 
with a delicacy which I hardly expected to find among them, 
always stopped him, or turned the subject. But the behaviour 
of the two men who were flogged toward one another showed 
a consideration which would have been worthy of admiration 
in the highest walks of life. Sam knew John had suffered 
solely on his account ; and in all his complaints he said that, 
if he alone had been flogged, it would have been nothing ; but 
he never could see him without thinking that he had been the 
means of bringing this disgrace upon him ; and John never, 
by word or deed, let anything escape him to remind the other 
that it was by interfering to save his shipmate that he had 
suffered. Neither made it a secret that they thought the 
Dutchman Bill and Foster might have helped them ; but they 
did not expect it of Stimson or me. While we showed our 
sympathy for their suffering, and our indignation at the cap- 
tain's violence, we did not feel sure that there was only one 
side to the beginning of the difficulty, and we kept clear of 
any engagement with them, except our promise to help them 
when they got home.^ 

I Owing to the change of vessels that afterwards took place, Captain Thompson 
arrived in Boston nearly a year before the Pilgrim, and was off on another voyage, 
and beyond the reach of these men. Soon after the publication of the first edition 
of this book, in 1841, 1 received a letter from Stimson, dated at Detroit, Michigan, 
where he had re-entered mercantile life, from which I make this extract : " As to 
your account of the flogging scene, I think you have given a fair history of it, and, 
if anything, been too lenient towards Captain Thompson for his brutal, cowardly 
treatment of those men. As I was in the hold at the time the affray commenced, 
I will give you a short history of it as near as I can recollect. We were breaking 
out goods in the fore-hold, and, in order to get at them, we had to shift our hides 
from forward to aft. After having removed part of them, we came to the boxes, 



Il6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Having got all our spare room filled with hides, we hove up 
our anchor, and made sail for San Diego. In no operation can 
the disposition of a crew be better discovered than in getting 
under way. Where things are done "with a will," every one 
is like a cat aloft ; sails are loosed in an instant ; each one lays 
out his strength on his handspike, and the windlass goes briskly 
round with the loud cry of '' Yo heave ho ! Heave and pawl ! 
Heave hearty, ho ! " and the chorus of '^ Cheerly, men ! " cats 
the anchor. But with us, at this time, it was all dragging work. 
No one went aloft beyond his ordinary gait, and the chain came 
slowly in over the windlass. The mate, between the knight- 
heads, exhausted all his official rhetoric in calls of '< Heave with 
a will ! " — " Heave hearty, men ! — heave hearty ! " — Heave, 
and raise the dead ! " — '' Heave, and away ! " etc. ; but it would 
not do. Nobody broke his back or his handspike by his efforts. 
And when the cat-tackle-fall was strung along, and all hands — 
cook, steward, and all — laid hold, to cat the anchor, instead of 
the lively song of "Cheerly, men ! " in which all hands join in 
the chorus, we pulled a long, heavy, silent pull, and, as sailors 
say a song is as good as ten men, the anchor came to the cat- 
head pretty slowly. " Give us ' Cheerly ! ' " said the mate ; but 
there was no " cheerly " for us, and we did without it. The 
captain walked the quarter-deck, and said not a word. He must 
have seen the change, but there was nothing which he could 
notice officially. 

We sailed leisurely down the coast before a light, fair wind, 
keeping the land well aboard, and saw two other missions, 

and attempted to get them out without moving any more of the hides. "While 
doing so, Sam accidentally hurt his hand, and, as usual, began swearing about it, 
and was not sparing of his oaths, although I think he was not aware that Captain 
Thompson was so near him at the time. Captain Thompson asked him, in no 
moderate way, what was the matter with him. Sam, on account of the impediment 
in his speech, could not answer immediately, although he endeavoured to, but as 
soon as possible answered in a manner that almost any one would, under the like 
circumstances, yet, I believe, not with the intention of giving a short answer; but be- 
ing provoked, and suffering pain from the injured hand, he perhaps answered rather 
short, or sullenly. Thus commenced the scene you have so vividly described, and 
which seems to me exactly the history of the whole affair without any exaggeration." 



SAN DIEGO 117 

looking like blocks of white plaster, shining in the distance ; 
one of which, situated on the top of a high hill, was San Juan 
Capistrano, under which vessels sometimes come to anchor, 
in the summer season, and take off hides. At sunset on the 
second day we had a large and well-wooded headland directly 
before us, behind which lay the little harbour of San Diego. 
We were becalmed off this point all night, but the next morning 
which was Saturday, the 1 4th of March, having a good breeze, 
we stood round the point, and, hauling our wind, brought the 
little harbour, which is rather the outlet of a small river, right 
before us. Every one was desirous to get a view of the new 
place. A chain of high hills, beginning at the point (which 
was on our larboard hand coming in), protected the harbour on 
the north and west, and ran off into the interior, as far as the 
eye could reach. On the other sides the land was low and 
green, but without trees. The entrance is so narrow as to ad- 
mit but one vessel at a time, the current swift, and the channel 
runs so near to a low, stony point that the ship's sides, appeared 
almost to touch it. There was no town in sight, but on the 
smooth sand beach, abreast, and within a cable's length of which 
three vessels lay moored, were four large houses, built of rough 
boards, and looking like the great barns in which ice is stored 
on the borders of the large ponds near Boston, with piles of 
hides standing round them, and men in red shirts and large 
straw hats walking in and out of the doors. These were the 
hide-houses. Of the vessels : one, a short, clumsy little her- 
maphrodite brig, we recognized as our old acquaintance, the 
Loriotte ; another, with sharp bows and raking masts, newly 
painted and tarred, and glittering in the morning sun, with the 
blood-red banner and cross of St. George at her peak, was the 
handsome Ayacucho. The third was a large ship, with top- 
gallant-masts housed and sails unbent, and looking as rusty and 
worn as two years' "hide droghing" could make her. This 
was the Lagoda. As we drew near, carried rapidly along by 
the current, we overhauled our chain, and clewed up the top- 
sails. "Let go the anchor!" said the captain; but either 



no TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

there was not chain enough forward of the windlass, or the 
anchor went down foul, or we had too much headway on, for 
it did not bring us up. " Pay out chain ! " shouted the cap- 
tain ; and we gave it to her ; but it would not do. Before the 
other anchor could be let go, we drifted down, broadside on, 
and went smash into the Lagoda. Her crew were at breakfast 
in the forecastle, and her cook, seeing us coming, rushed out 
of his galley, and called up the officers and men. 

Fortunately, no great harm was done. Her jib-boom 
passed between our fore and main masts, carrying away some 
of our rigging, and breaking down the rail. She lost her 
martingale. This brought us up, and, as they paid out chain, 
we swung clear of them, and let go the other anchor ; but this 
had as bad luck as the first, for, before any one perceived it, 
we were drifting down upon the Loriotte. The captain now 
gave out his orders rapidly and fiercely, sheeting home the 
topsails, and backing and filling the sails, in hope of starting 
or clearing the anchors ; but it was all in vain, and he sat 
down on the rail, taking it very leisurely, and calling out to 
Captain Nye that he was coming to pay him a visit. We 
drifted fairly into the Loriotte, her larboard bow into our 
starboard quarter, carrying away a part of our starboard 
quarter railing, and breaking off her larboard bumpkin, and 
one or two stanchions above the deck. We saw our hand- 
some sailor, Jackson, on the forecastle, with the Sandwich 
Islanders, working away to get us clear. After paying out 
chain, we swung clear, but our anchors were, no doubt, afoul 
of hers. We manned the windlass, and hove, and hove away, 
but to no purpose. Sometimes we got a little upon the cable, 
but a good surge would take it all back again. We now began 
to drift down toward the Ayacucho ; when her boat put off, 
and brought her commander. Captain Wilson, on board. He 
was a short, active, well-built man, about fifty years of age ; 
and being some twenty years older than our captain, and a 
thorough seaman, he did not hesitate to give his advice, and, 
from giving advice, he gradually came to taking the cqmmand ; 



SAN DIEGO 119 

ordering us when to heave and when to pawl, and backing and 
filling the topsails, setting and taking in jib and trysail, when- 
ever he thought best. Our captain gave a few orders, but as 
Wilson generally countermanded them, saying, in an easy, 
fatherly kind of way, " Oh, no ! Captain Thompson, you don't 
want the jib on her," or " It is n't time yet to heave ! " he 
soon gave it up. We had no objections to this state of things, 
for Wilson was a kind man, and had an encouraging and 
pleasant way of speaking to us, which made everything go 
easily. After two or three hours of constant labour at the 
windlass, heaving and yo-ho-ing with all our might, we brought 
up an anchor, with the Loriotte's small bower fast to it, 
Having cleared this, and let it go, and cleared our hawse, we 
got our other anchor, which had dragged half over the har- 
bour. " Now," said Wilson, " I 'U find you a good berth " ; 
and, setting both the topsails, he carried us down, and brought 
us to anchor, in handsome style, directly abreast of the hide- 
house which we were to use. Having done this, he took his 
leave, while we furled the sails, and got our breakfast, which 
was welcome to us, for we had worked hard, and eaten nothing 
since yesterday afternoon, and it was nearly twelve o'clock. 
After breakfast, and until night, we were employed in getting 
out the boats and mooring ship. 

After supper, two of us took the captain on board the 
Lagoda. As he came alongside, he gave his name, and the 
mate, in the gangway, called out to Captain Bradshaw, down 
the companion-way, "Captain Thompson has come aboard, 
sir ! " " Has he brought his brig with him ? " asked the rough 
old fellow, in a tone which made itself heard fore and aft. 
This mortified our captain not a little, and it became a stand- 
ing joke among us, and, indeed, over the coast, for the rest of 
the voyage. The captain went down into the cabin, and we 
walked forward and put our heads down the forecastle, where 
we found the men at supper. " Come down, shipmates ! * 

1 " Shipmate " is the term by which sailors address one another when not 
acquainted. 



I20 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

come down ! " said they, as soon as they saw us ; and we went 
down, and found a large, high forecastle, well lighted, and a 
crew of twelve or fourteen men eating out of their kids and 
pans, and drinking their tea, and talking and laughing, all as 
independent and easy as so many "woodsawyer's clerks." 
This looked like comfort and enjoyment, compared with the 
dark little forecastle, and scanty, discontented crew of the brig. 
It was Saturday night ; they had got through their work for 
the week, and, being snugly moored, had nothing to do until 
Monday again. After two years* hard service, they had seen 
the worst, and all, of California ; had got their 'cargo nearly 
stowed, and expected to sail, in a week or two, for Boston. 

We spent an hour or more with them, talking over Cali- 
fornia matters, until the word was passed, — " Pilgrims, away ! " 
and we went back to our brig. The Lagodas were a hardy, 
intelligent set, a little roughened, and their clothes patched 
and old, from California wear ; all able seaman, and between 
the ages of twenty and thirty-five or forty. They inquired 
about our vessel, the usage on board, etc., and were not a 
little surprised at the story of the flogging. They said there 
were often difficulties in vessels on the coast, and sometimes 
knock-downs and fightings, but they had never heard before of 
a regular seizing-up and flogging. " Spread eagles " were a 
new kind of bird in California. 

Sunday, they said, was always given in San Diego, both at 
the hide-houses and on board the vessels, a large number usually 
going up to the town, on liberty. We learned a good deal 
from them about the curing and stowing of hides, etc., and 
they were desirous to have the latest news (seven months old) 
from Boston. One of their first inquiries was for Father 
Taylor, the seamen's preacher in Boston. Then followed the 
usual strain of conversation, inquiries, stories, and jokes, 
which one must always hear in a ship's forecastle, but which 
are, perhaps, after all, no worse, though more gross and 
coarse, than those one may chance to hear from some well- 
dressed gentlemen around their tables. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE next day being Sunday, after washing and clearing 
decks, and getting breakfast, the mate came forward 
with leave for one watch to go ashore, on liberty. We 
drew lots, and it fell to the larboard, which I was in. Instantly 
all was preparation. Buckets of fresh water (which we were 
allowed in port), and soap, were put in use; go-ashore jackets 
and trousers got out and brushed ; pumps, neckerchiefs, and 
hats overhauled, one lending to another ; so that among the 
whole each got a good fit-out. A boat was called to pull the 
"liberty-men" ashore, and we sat down in the stern sheets, 
**as big as pay-passengers," and, jumping ashore, set out on 
our walk for the town, which was nearly three miles off. 

It is a pity that some other arrangement is not made in 
merchant vessels with regard to the liberty-day. When in 
port, the crews are kept at work all the week, and the only 
day they are allowed for rest or pleasure is Sunday ; and un- 
less they go ashore on that day, they cannot go at all. I have 
heard of a religious captain who gave his crew liberty on 
Saturdays, after twelve o'clock. This would be a good plan, 
if shipmasters would bring themselves to give their crews so 
much time. For young sailors especially, many of whom 
have been brought up with a regard for the sacredness of the 
day, this strong temptation to break it is exceedingly injurious. 
As it is, it can hardly be expected that a crew, on a long and 
hard voyage, will refuse a few hours of freedom from toil 
and the restraints of a vessel, and an opportunity to tread 
the ground and see the sights of society and humanity, be- 
cause it is a Sunday. They feel no objection to being drawn 
out of a pit on the Sabbath day. 

I shall never forget the delightful sensation of being in 

121 



122 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the open air, with the birds singing around me, and escaped 
from the confinement, labour, and strict rule of a vessel, — of 
being once more in my life, though only for a day, my own 
master. A sailor's liberty is but for a day ; yet while it lasts 
it is entire. He is under no one's eye, and can do whatever, 
and go wherever, he pleases. This day, for the first time, I 
may truly say, in my whole life, I felt the meaning of a term 
which I had often heard, — the sweets of liberty. Stimson 
was with me, and, turning our backs upon the vessels, we 
walked slowly along, talking of the pleasure of being our own 
masters, of the times past, when we were free and in the midst 
of friends, in America, and of the prospect of our return ; and 
planning where we would go, and what we would do, when we 
reached home. It was wonderful how the prospect brightened, 
and how short and tolerable the voyage appeared, when viewed 
in this new light. Things looked differently from what they 
did when we talked them over in the little dark forecastle, 
the night after the flogging, at San Pedro. It is not the 
least of the advantages of allowing sailors occasionally a day 
of liberty, that it gives them a spring, and makes them feel 
cheerful and independent, and leads them insensibly to look 
on the bright side of everything for some time after. 

Stimson and I determined to keep as much together as 
possible, though we knew that it would not do to cut our 
shipmates ; for, knowing our birth and education, they were a 
little suspicious that we would try to put on the gentleman 
when we got ashore, and would be ashamed of their com- 
pany ; and this won't do with Jack. When the voyage is at 
an end, you do as you please ; but so long as you belong to 
the same vessel, you must be a shipmate to him on shore, or 
he will not be a shipmate to you on board. Being forewarned 
of this before I went to sea, I took no " long togs " with me ; 
and being dressed like the rest, in white duck trousers, blue 
jacket, and straw hat, which would prevent my going into 
better company, and showing no disposition to avoid them, I 
set all suspicion at rest. Our crew fell in with some who be- 



LIBERTY-DAY ON SHORE 1 23 

longed to the other vessels, and, sailor-like, steered for the first 
grog-shop. This was a small adobe building, of only one room, 
in which were liquors, "dry-goods," West India goods, shoes, 
bread, fruits, and everything which is vendible in California. 
It was kept by a Yankee, a one-eyed man, who belonged 
formerly to Fall River, came out to the Pacific in a whale- 
ship, left her at the Sandwich Islands, and came to California 
and set up a pulperia. Stimson and I followed in our ship- 
mates' wake, knowing that to refuse to drink with them would 
be the highest affront, but determining to slip away at the first 
opportunity. It is the universal custom with sailors for each 
one, in his turn, to treat the whole, calling for a glass all round, 
and obliging every one who is present, even to the keeper of 
the shop, to take a glass with him. When we first came in, 
there was some dispute between our crew and the others, 
whether the new-comers or the old California rangers should 
treat first ; but it being settled in favour of the latter, each of 
the crews of the other vessels treated all round in their turn, 
and as there were a good many present (including some 
"loafers" who had dropped in, knowing what was going on, 
to take advantage of Jack's hospitality), and the liquor was a 
real (121^ cents) a glass, it made somewhat of a hole in their 
lockers. It was now our ship's turn, and Stimson and I, de- 
sirous to get away, stepped up to call for glasses ; but we soon 
found that we must go in order, — the oldest first, for the old 
sailors did not choose to be preceded by a couple of youngsters ; 
and bon gre, mal gre, we had to wait our turn, with the two- 
fold apprehension of being too late for our horses, and of 
getting too much ; for drink you must, every time ; and if you 
drink with one, and not with another, it is always taken as an 
insult. 

Having at length gone through our turns and acquitted 
ourselves of all obligations, we slipped out, and went about 
among the houses, endeavouring to find horses for the day, 
so that we might ride round and see the country. At first 
we had but little success, all that we could get out of the lazy 



124 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

fellows, in reply to our questions, being the eternal drawl- 
ing " Quien sabe ? " (Who knows ?) which is an answer to all 
questions. After several efforts, we at length fell in with a 
little Sandwich Island boy, who belonged to Captain Wilson, 
of the Ayacucho, and was well acquainted in the place ; and 
he, knowing where to go, soon procured us two horses, ready 
saddled and bridled, each with a lasso coiled over the pommel. 
These we were to have all day, with the privilege of riding 
them down to the beach at night, for a dollar, which we had 
to pay in advance. Horses are the cheapest things in Cali- 
fornia ; very fair ones not being worth more than ten dol- 
lars apiece, and the poorer being often sold for three and 
four. In taking a day's ride, you pay for the use of the saddle, 
and for the labour and trouble of catching the horses. If you 
bring the saddle back safe, they care but little what becomes 
of the horse. Mounted on our horses, which were spirited 
beasts (and which, by the way, in this country, are always 
steered in the cavalry fashion, by pressing the contrary rein 
against the neck, and not by pulling on the bit), we started off 
on a fine run over the country. The first place we went to 
was the old ruinous Presidio, which stands on a rising ground 
near the village, which it overlooks. It is built in the form of 
an open square, like all the other Presidios, and was in a most 
ruinous state, with the exception of one side, in which the com- 
mandant lived, with his family. There were only two guns, 
one of which was spiked, and the other had no carriage. 
Twelve half-clothed and half-starved looking fellows composed 
the garrison ; and they, it was said, had not a musket apiece. 
The small settlement lay directly below the fort, composed of 
about forty dark brown looking huts, or houses, and three or 
four larger ones, whitewashed, which belonged to the " gente 
de razon." This town is not more than half as large as Mon- 
terey, or Santa Barbara, and has little or no business. From 
the Presidio, we rode off in the direction of the Mission, 
which we were told was three miles distant. The country 
was rather sandy, and there was nothing for miles which 



LIBERTY-DAY ON SHORE 1 25 

could be called a tree, but the grass grew green and rank, 
there were many bushes and thickets, and the soil is said to 
be good. After a pleasant ride of a couple of miles, we saw 
the white walls of the Mission, and, fording a small stream, 
we came directly before it. The Mission is built of adobe 
and plastered. There was something decidedly striking in 
its appearance : a number of irregular buildings, connected 
with one another, and, disposed in the form of a hollow 
square, with a church at one end, rising above the rest, with 
a tower containing five belfries, in each of which hung a large 
bell, and with very large rusty iron crosses at the tops. Just 
outside of the buildings, and under the walls, stood twenty or 
thirty small huts, built of straw and of the branches of trees, 
grouped together, in which a few Indians lived, under the pro- 
tection and in the service of the Mission. 

Entering a gateway, we drove into the open square, in 
which the stillness of death reigned. On one side was the 
church ; on another, a range of high buildings with grated 
windows ; a third was a range of smaller buildings, or offices, 
and the fourth seemed to be little more than a high connect- 
ing wall. Not a living creature could we see. We rode 
twice round the square, in the hope of waking up some one ; 
and in one circuit saw a tall monk, with shaven head, sandals, 
and the dress of the Gray Friars, pass rapidly through a gallery, 
but he disappeared without noticing us. After two circuits, 
we stopped our horses, and at last a man showed himself in 
front of one of the small buildings. We rode up to him, and 
found him dressed in the common dress of the country, with 
a silver chain round his neck, supporting a large bunch of 
keys. From this, we took him to be the steward of the 
Mission, and, addressing him as " Mayor-domo," received a 
low bow and an invitation to walk into his room. Making our 
horses fast, we went in. It was a plain room, containing a 
table, three or four chairs, a small picture or two of some 
saint, or miracle, or martyrdom, and a few dishes and glasses. 
" Hay alguna cosa de comer ? " said I, from my grammar. 



126 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

*'Si, Sefior!" said he. " Qu6 gusta usted?" Mentioning 
frijoles, which I knew they must have if they had nothing 
else, and beef and bread, with a hint for wine, if they had 
any, he went off to another building across the court, and 
returned in a few minutes with a couple of Indian boys bear- 
ing dishes and a decanter of wine. The dishes contained 
baked meats, frijoles stewed with peppers and onions, boiled 
eggs, and California flour baked into a kind of macaroni. 
These, together with the wine, made the most sumptuous 
meal we had eaten since we left Boston ; and, compared with 
the fare we had lived upon for seven months, it was a regal 
banquet. After despatching it, we took out some money and 
asked him how much we were to pay. He shook his head, 
and crossed himself, saying that it was charity, — that the Lord 
gave it to us. Knowing the amount of this to be that he did 
not sell, but was willing to receive a present, we gave him ten or 
twelve reals, which he pocketed with admirable nonchalance, 
saying, " Dios se lo pague." Taking leave of him, we rode 
out to the Indians' huts. The little children were running 
about among the huts, stark naked, and the men were not 
much more ; but the women had generally coarse gowns of a 
sort of tow cloth. The men are employed, most of the time, 
in tending the cattle of the Mission, and in working in the 
garden, which is a very large one, including several acres, and 
filled, it is said, with the best fruits of the climate. The 
language of these people, which is spoken by all the Indians 
of California, is the most brutish, without any exception, that 
I ever heard, or that could well be conceived of. It is a com- 
plete slabber. The words fall off of the ends of their tongues, 
and a continual slabbering sound is made in the cheeks, out- 
side of the teeth. It cannot have been the language of Mon- 
tezuma and the independent Mexicans. 

Here, among the huts, we saw the oldest man that I had 
ever met with ; and, indeed, I never supposed that a person 
could retain life and exhibit such marks of age. He was sit- 
ting out in the sun, leaning against the side of a hut ; and his 



LIBERTY-DAY ON SHORE 12/ 

legs and arms, which were bare, were of a dark red colour, the 
skin withered and shrunk up like burnt leather, and the limbs 
not larger round than those of a boy of five years. He had 
a few gray hairs, which were tied together at the back of his 
head, and he was so feeble that, when we came up to him, he 
raised his hands slowly to his face, and, taking hold of his lids 
with his fingers, lifted them up to look at us ; and, being satis- 
fied, let them drop again. All command over the lid seemed 
to have gone. I asked his age, but could get no answer but 
" Quien sabe ? " and they probably did not know it. 

Leaving the Mission, we returned to the village, going 
nearly all the way on a full run. The California horses have 
no medium gait, which is pleasant, between walking and run- 
ning ; for as there are no streets and parades, they have no 
need of the genteel trot, and their riders usually keep them at 
the top of their speed until they are tired, and then let them 
rest themselves by walking. The fine air of the afternoon, 
the rapid gait of the animals, who seemed almost to fly over 
the ground, and the excitement and novelty of the motion to 
us, who had been so long confined on shipboard, were exhila- 
rating beyond expression, and we felt willing to ride all day 
long. Coming into the village, we found things looking very 
lively. The Indians, who always have a holiday on Sunday, 
were engaged at playing a kind of running game of ball, on a 
level piece of ground, near the houses. The old ones sat 
down in a ring, looking on, while the young ones — men, boys, 
and girls — were chasing the ball, and throwing it with all 
their might. Some of the girls ran like greyhounds. At 
every accident, or remarkable feat, the old people set up a 
deafening screaming and clapping of hands. Several blue 
jackets were reeling about among the houses, which showed 
that the pulperias had been well patronized. One or two of 
the sailors had got on horseback, but being rather indifferent 
horsemen, and the Mexicans having given them vicious beasts, 
they were soon thrown, much to the amusement of the people. 
A half-dozen Sandwich Islanders, from the hide-houses and 



128 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the two brigs, bold riders, were dashing about on the full 
gallop, hallooing and laughing like so many wild men. 

It was now nearly sundown, and Stimson and I went into 
a house and sat quietly down to rest ourselves before going 
to the beach. Several people soon collected to see " los mari- 
neros ingleses," and one of them, a young woman, took a great 
fancy to my pocket-handkerchief, which was a large silk one 
that I had before going to sea, and a handsomer one than they 
had been in the habit of seeing. Of course, I gave it to her, 
which brought me into high favour ; and we had a present of 
some pears and other fruits, which we took down to the beach 
with us. When we came to leave the house, we found that 
our horses, which we had tied at the door, were both gone. 
We had paid for them to ride down to the beach, but they 
were not to be found. We went to the man of whom we hired 
them, but he only shrugged his shoulders, and to our ques- 
tion, " Where are the horses ? " only answered, " Quien sabe .'' " 
but as he was very easy, and made no inquiries for the sad- 
dles, we saw that he knew very well where they were. After 
a little trouble, determined not to walk to the beach, — a dis- 
tance of three miles, — we procured two, at four reals more 
apiece, with two Indian boys to run behind and bring them 
back. Determined to have "the go" out of the horses, for 
our trouble, we went down at full speed, and were on the 
beach in a few minutes. Wishing to make our liberty last as 
long as possible, we rode up and down among the hide-houses, 
amusing ourselves with seeing the men as they arrived (it was 
now dusk), some on horseback and others on foot. The 
Sandwich Islanders rode down, and were in "high snuff." 
We inquired for our shipmates, and were told that two of them 
had started on horseback, and been thrown, or had fallen off, 
and were seen heading for the beach, but steering pretty wild, 
and, by the looks of things, would not be down much before 
midnight. 

The Indian boys having arrived, we gave them our horses, 
and, having seen them safely off, hailed for a boat, and went 



LIBERTY-DAY ON SHORE 1 29 

aboard. Thus ended our first liberty-day on shore. We 
were well tired, but had had a good time, and were more will- 
ing to go back to our old duties. About midnight we were 
waked up by our two watchmates, who had come aboard in high 
dispute. It seems they had started to come down on the 
same horse, double-backed ; and each was accusing the other 
of being the cause of his fall. They soon, however, turned-in 
and fell asleep, and probably forgot all about it, for the next 
morning the dispute was not renewed. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE next sound that we heard was "All hands ahoy!" 
and, looking up the scuttle, saw that it was just day- 
light. Our liberty had now truly taken flight, and with 
it we laid away our pumps, stockings, blue jackets, necker- 
chiefs, and other go-ashore paraphernalia, and putting on old 
duck trousers, red shirts, and Scotch caps, began taking out 
and landing our hides. For three days we were hard at work 
in this duty, from the gray of the morning until starlight, with 
the exception of a short time allowed for meals. For landing 
and taking on board hides, San Diego is decidedly the best 
place in California. The harbour is small and land-locked ; 
there is no surf ; the vessels lie within a cable's length of the 
beach, and the beach itself is smooth, hard sand, without 
rocks or stones. For these reasons, it is used by all the 
vessels in the trade as a depot ; and, indeed, it would be im- 
possible, when loading with the cured hides for the passage 
home, to take them on board at any of the open ports, with- 
out getting them wet in the surf, which would spoil them. 
We took possession of one of the hide-houses, which belonged 
to our firm, and had been used by the California. It was built 
to hold forty thousand hides, and we had the pleasing prospect 
of filling it before we could leave the coast ; and toward this 
our thirty-five hundred, which we brought down with us, would 
do but little. There was scarce a man on board who did not 
go often into the house, looking round, reflecting, and making 
some calculation of the time it would require. 

The hides, as they come rough and uncured from the 
vessels, are piled up outside of the houses, whence they are 
taken and carried through a regular process of pickling, dry- 
ing, and cleaning, and stowed away in the house, ready to be 

130 



SAN DIEGO 131 

put on board. This process is necessary in order that they 
may keep during a long voyage and in warm latitudes. For 
the purpose of curing and taking care of them, an officer and 
a part of the crew of each vessel are usually left ashore ; and 
it was for this business, we found, that our new officer had 
joined us. As soon as the hides were landed, he took charge 
of the house, and the captain intended to leave two or three 
of us with him, hiring Sandwich Islanders in our places on 
board ; but he could not get any Sandwich Islanders to go, 
although he offered them fifteen dollars a month ; for the 
report of the flogging had got among them, and he was 
called " aole maikai " (no good) ; and that was an end of the 
business. They were, however, willing to work on shore, 
and four of them were hired and put with Mr. Russell to cure 
the hides. 

After landing our hides, we next sent ashore our spare 
spars and rigging, all the stores which we did not need in the 
course of one trip to windward, and, in fact, everything which 
we could spare, so as to make room on board for hides ; among 
other things, the pigsty, and with it *^old Bess." This was 
an old sow that we had brought from Boston, and who lived 
to get round Cape Horn, where all the other pigs died from 
cold and wet. Report said that she had been a Canton voyage 
before. She had been the pet of the cook during the whole 
passage, and he had fed her with the best of everything, and 
taught her to know his voice, and to do a number of strange 
tricks for his amusement. Tom Cringle says that no one can 
fathom a negro's affection for a pig ; and I believe he is right, 
for it almost broke our poor darkey's heart when he heard that 
Bess was to be taken ashore, and that he was to have the care 
of her no more. He had depended upon her as a solace, 
during the long trips up and down the coast. " Obey orders, if 
you break owners ! " said he, — " break hearts," he might have 
said, — and lent a hand to get her over the side, trying to 
make it as easy for her as possible. We got a whip on the 
main-yard, and, hooking it to a strap round her body, swayed 



132 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

away and, giving a wink to one another, ran her chock up to 
the yard-arm. '' 'Vast there ! 'vast ! " said the mate ; " none 
of your skylarking ! Lower away ! " But he evidently enjoyed 
the joke. The pig squealed like the " crack of doom," and 
tears stood in the poor darkey's eyes ; and he muttered some- 
thing about having no pity on a dumb beast. " Dumb beast ! " 
said Jack, " If she 's what you call a dumb beast, then my eyes 
a'n't mates." This produced a laugh from all but the cook. 
He was too intent upon seeing her safe in the boat. He 
watched her all the way ashore, where, upon her landing, she 
was received by a whole troop of her kind, who had been set 
ashore from the other vessels, and had multiplied and formed 
a large commonwealth. From the door of his galley the cook 
used to watch them in their manoeuvres, setting up a shout 
and clapping his hands whenever Bess came off victorious in 
the struggles for pieces of raw hide and half-picked bones 
which were lying about the beach. During the day, he saved 
all the nice things, and made a bucket of swill, and asked us 
to take it ashore in the gig, and looked quite disconcerted 
when the mate told him that he would pitch the swill over- 
board, and him after it, if he saw any of it go into the boats. 
We told him that he thought more about the pig than he did 
about his wife, who lived down in Robinson's Alley ; and, 
indeed, he could hardly have been more attentive, for he 
actually, on several nights, after dark, when he thought 
he would not be seen, sculled himself ashore in a boat, with 
a bucket of nice swill, and returned like Leander from crossing 
the Hellespont. 

The next Sunday the other half of our crew went ashore 
on liberty, and left us on board, to enjoy the first quiet Sun- 
day we had had upon the coast. Here were no hides to come 
off, and no southeasters to fear. We washed and mended our 
clothes in the morning, and spent the rest of the day in read- 
ing and writing. Several of us wrote letters to send home by 
the Lagoda. At twelve o'clock, the Ayacucho dropped her 
fore top-sail, which was a signal for her sailing. She unmoored 



SAN DIEGO 133 

and warped down into the bight, from which she got under way. 
During this operation her crew were a long time heaving at 
the windlass, and I listened to the musical notes of a Sandwich 
Islander named Mahanna, who " sang out " for them. Sailors, 
when heaving at a windlass, in order that they may heave to- 
gether, always have one to sing out, which is done in high and 
long-drawn notes, varying with the motion of the windlass. 
This requires a clear voice, strong lungs, and much practice, 
to be done well. This fellow had a very peculiar, wild sort of 
note, breaking occasionally into a falsetto. The sailors thought 
that it was too high, and not enough of the boatswain hoarse- 
ness about it ; but to me it had a great charm. The harbour 
was perfectly still, and his voice rang among the hills as though 
it could have been heard for miles. Toward sundown, a good 
breeze having sprung up, the Ayacucho got under way, and 
with her long, sharp head cutting elegantly through the water 
on a taut bowline, she stood directly out of the harbour, and 
bore away to the southward. She was bound to Callao, and 
thence to the Sandwich Islands, and expected to be on the 
coast again in eight or ten months. 

At the close of the week we were ready to sail, but were 
delayed a day or two by the running away of Foster, the man 
who had been our second mate and was turned forward. From 
the time that he was "broken," he had had a dog's berth on 
board the vessel, and determined to run away at the first 
opportunity. Having shipped for an officer when he was not 
half a seaman, he found little pity with the crew, and was 
not man enough to hold his ground among them. The captain 
called him a " soger," ^ and promised to " ride him down as he 

I Soger (soldier) is the worst term of reproach that can be applied to a sailor. 
It signifies a skulk, a shirk, — one who is always trying to get clear of work, and is 
out of the way, or hanging back, when duty is to be done. " Marine " is the tenn 
applied more particularly to a man who is ignorant and clumsy about seaman's 
work, — a greenhorn, a land-lubber. To make a sailor shoulder a handspike, and 
walk fore and aft the deck, like a sentry, is as ignominious a punishment as can be 
put upon him. Such a punishment inflicted upon an able seaman in a vessel of 
war might break down his spirit more than a flogging. 



134 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

would the main tack " ; and when officers are once determined 
to "ride a man down," it is a gone case with him. He had 
had several difficulties with the captain, and asked leave to go 
home in the Lagoda ; but this was refused him. One night 
he was insolent to an officer on the beach, and refused to come 
aboard in the boat. He was reported to the captain ; and, as 
he came aboard, — it being past the proper hour — he was 
called aft, and told that he was to have a flogging. Immedi- 
ately he fell down on deck, calling out, *' Don't flog me 
Captain Thompson, don't flog me ! " and the captain, angry 
and disgusted with him, gave him a few blows over the back 
with a rope's end, and sent him forward. He was not much 
hurt, but a good deal frightened, and made up his mind to run 
away that night. This was managed better than anything he 
ever did in his life, and seemed really to show some spirit and 
forethought. He gave his bedding and mattress to one of the 
Lagoda' s crew, who promised to keep it for him, and took it 
aboard his ship as something which he had bought. He then 
unpacked his chest, putting all his valuable clothes into a large 
canvas bag, and told one of us who had the watch to call him 
at midnight. Coming on deck at midnight, and finding no 
officer on deck, and all still aft, he lowered his bag into a boat, 
got softly down into it, cast off the painter, and let it drop down 
silently with the tide until he was out of hearing, when he 
sculled ashore. 

The next morning, when all hands were mustered, there 
was a great stir to find Foster. Of course, we would tell 
nothing, and all they could discover was that he had left an 
empty chest behind him, and that he went off in a boat ; for 
they saw the boat lying high and dry on the beach. After 
breakfast, the captain went up to the town, and offered a 
reward of twenty dollars for him ; and for a couple of days 
the soldiers, Indians, and all others who had nothing to do, 
were scouring the country for him, on horseback, but without 
effect ; for he was safely concealed, all the time, within fifty 
rods of the hide-houses. As soon as he had landed, he went 



A DESERTION 1 35 

directly to the Lagoda's hide-house, and a part of her crew, 
who were Hving there on shore, promised to conceal him and 
his traps until the Pilgrim should sail, and then to intercede 
with Captain Bradshaw to take him on board his ship. Just 
behind the hide-houses, among the thickets and underwood, 
was a small cave, the entrance to which was known only to 
two men on the beach, and which was so well concealed that 
though, when I afterwards came to live on shore, it was shown 
to me two or three times, I was never able to find it alone. 
To this cave he was carried before daybreak in the morning, 
and supplied with bread and water, and there remained until 
he saw us under way and well round the point. 

Friday y March 2jth. The captain having given up all 
hope of finding Foster, and being unwilling to delay any longer, 
gave orders for unmooring ship, and we made sail, dropping 
slowly down with the tide and light wind. We left letters 
with Captain Bradshaw to take to Boston, and were made 
miserable by hearing him say that he should be back again 
before we left the coast. The wind, which was very light, 
died away soon after we doubled the point, and we lay be- 
calmed for two days, not moving three miles the whole time, 
and a part of the second day were almost within sight of the 
vessels. On the third day, about noon, a cool sea-breeze came 
rippling and darkening the surface of the water, and by sun- 
down we were off San Juan, which is about forty miles from 
San Diego, and is called half way to San Pedro, where we 
were bound. Our crew was now considerably weakened. 
One man we had lost overboard, another had been taken aft 
as clerk, and a third had run away ; so that, beside Stimson 
and myself, there were only three able seamen and one boy 
of twelve years of age. With this diminished and discon- 
tented crew, and in a small vessel, we were now to battle the 
watch through a couple of years of hard service ; yet there 
was not one who was not glad that Foster had escaped ; for, 
shiftless and good for nothing as he was, no one could wish to 
see him dragging on a miserable life, cowed down and dis- 



136 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

heartened ; and we were all rejoiced to hear, upon our return 
to San Diego, about two months afterwards, that he had been 
immediately taken aboard the Lagoda, and had gone home in 
her, on regular seaman's wages. 

After a slow passage of five days, we arrived on Wednes- 
day, the first of April, at our old anchoring-ground at San 
Pedro. The bay was as deserted and looked as dreary as be- 
fore, and formed no pleasing contrast with the security and 
snugness of San Diego, and the activity and interest which 
the loading and unloading of four vessels gave to that scene. 
In a few days the hides began to come slowly down, and we 
got into the old business of rolling goods up the hill, pitching 
hides down, and pulling our long league off and on. Nothing 
of note occurred while we were lying here, except that an 
attempt was made to repair the small Mexican brig which had 
been cast away in a southeaster, and which now lay up, high 
and dry, over one reef of rocks and two sand-banks. Our 
carpenter surveyed her, and pronounced her capable of being 
refitted, and in a few days the owners came down from the 
Pueblo, and having waited for the high spring tides, with the 
help of our cables, kedges, and crew, hauled her off after sev- 
eral trials. The three men at the house on shore, who had 
formerly been a part of her crew, now joined her, and seemed 
glad enough at the prospect of getting off the coast. 

On board our own vessel, things went on in the common 
monotonous way. The excitement which immediately fol- 
lowed the flogging scene had passed off, but the effect of it 
upon the crew, and especially upon the two men themselves, 
remained. The different manner in which these men were 
affected, corresponding to their different characters, was not a 
little remarkable. John was a foreigner and high-tempered, 
and though mortified, as any one would be at having had the 
worst of an encounter, yet his chief feeling seemed to be anger ; 
and he talked much of satisfaction and revenge, if he ever got 
back to Boston. But with the other it was very different. He 
was an American, and had had some education ; and this thing 



SANTA BARBARA AGAIN 1 3/ 

coming upon him seemed completely to break him down. He 
had a feeling of the degradation that had been inflicted upon 
him, which the other man was incapable of. Before that, he 
had a good deal of fun in him, and amused us often with queer 
negro stories (he was from a slave State) ; but afterwards he 
seldom smiled, seemed to lose all life and elasticity, and 
appeared to have but one wish, and that was for the voyage 
to be at an end. I have often known him to draw a long 
sigh when he was alone, and he took but little part or interest 
in John's plans of satisfaction and retaliation. 

After a stay of about a fortnight, during which we slipped 
for one southeaster, and were at sea two days, we got under 
way for Santa Barbara. It was now the middle of April, the 
southeaster season was nearly over, and the light, regular 
winds, which blow down the coast, began to set steadily in, 
during the latter part of each day. Against these we beat 
slowly up to Santa Barbara — a distance of about ninety miles 
— in three days. There we found, lying at anchor, the large 
Genoese ship which we saw in the same place on the first day 
of our coming upon the coast. She had been up to San Fran- 
cisco, or, as it is called, ** chock up to windward," had stopped 
at Monterey on her way down, and was shortly to proceed to 
San Pedro and San Diego, and thence, taking in her cargo, 
to sail for Valparaiso and Cadiz. She was a large, clumsy 
ship, and, with her topmasts stayed forward, and high poop- 
deck, looked like an old woman with a crippled back. It was 
now the close of Lent, and on Good Friday she had all her 
yards a'-cock-bill, which is customary among Catholic vessels. 
Some also have an effigy of Judas, which the crew amuse 
themselves with keel-hauling and hanging by the neck from 
the yard-arms. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE next Sunday was Easter, and as there had been no 
liberty at San Pedro, it was our turn to go ashore and 
misspend another Sunday. Soon after breakfast, a 
large boat, filled with men in blue jackets, scarlet caps, and 
various coloured under-clothes, bound ashore on liberty, left 
the Italian ship, and passed under our stern, the men singing 
beautiful Italian boat-songs all the way, in fine, full chorus. 
Among the songs I recognized the favourite, " O Pescator 
deir onda." It brought back to my mind pianofortes, drawing- 
rooms, young ladies singing, and a thousand other things which 
as little befitted me, in my situation, to be thinking upon. 
Supposing that the whole day would be too long a time to 
spend ashore, as there was no place to which we could take a 
ride, we remained quietly on board until after dinner. We 
were then pulled ashore in the stern of the boat, — for it is a 
point with liberty-men to be pulled off and back as passengers 
by their shipmates, — and, with orders to be on the beach at 
sundown, we took our way for the town. There, everything 
wore the appearance of a holiday. The people were dressed 
in their best ; the men riding about among the houses, and 
the women sitting on carpets before the doors. Under the 
piazza of a pulperia two men were seated, decked out with 
knots of ribbons and bouquets, and playing the violin and the 
Spanish guitar. These are the only instruments, with the 
exception of the drums and trumpets at Monterey, that I ever 
heard in California ; and I suspect they play upon no others, 
for at a great fandango at which I was afterwards present, 
and where they mustered all the music they could find, there 
were three violins and two guitars, and no other instruments. 
As it was now too near the middle of the day to see any 

138 



EASTER SUNDAY 1 39 

dancing, and hearing that a bull was expected down from the 
country, to be baited in the Presidio square, in the course of 
an hour or two, we took a stroll among the houses. Inquiring 
for an American who, we had been told, had married in the 
place, and kept a shop, we were directed to a long, low build- 
ing, at the end of which was a door, with a sign over it, in 
Spanish. Entering the shop, we found no one in it, and the 
whole had an empty, deserted air. In a few minutes the man 
made his appearance, and apologized for having nothing to 
entertain us with, saying that he had had a fandango at his 
house the night before, and the people had eaten and drunk 
up everything. 

" Oh, yes ! " said I, " Easter holidays ! " 

" No ! " said he, with a singular expression on his face ; 
" I had a little daughter die the other day, and that 's the cus- 
tom of the country." 

At this I felt somewhat awkwardly, not knowing what to 
say, and whether to offer consolation or not, and was begin- 
ning to retire, when he opened a side door and told us to walk 
in. Here I was no less astonished ; for I found a large room, 
filled with young girls, from three or four years of age up to 
fifteen and sixteen, dressed all in white, with wreaths of flowers 
on their heads, and bouquets in their hands. Following our 
conductor among these girls, who were playing about in high 
spirits, we came to a table, at the end of the room, covered 
with a white cloth, on which lay a coffin, about three feet 
long, with the body of his child. The coffin was covered with 
white cloth, and lined with white satin, and was strewn with 
flowers. Through an open door, we saw, in another room, a 
few elderly people in common dresses ; while the benches and 
tables thrown up in a corner, and the stained walls, gave 
evident signs of the last night's "high go." Feeling, like 
Garrick, between Tragedy and Comedy, an uncertainty of 
purpose, I asked the man when the funeral would take place, 
and being told that it would move toward the Mission in about 
an hour, took my leave. 



I40 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

To pass away the time, we hired horses and rode to the 
beach, and there saw three or four Italian sailors, mounted, 
and riding up and down on the hard sand at a furious rate. 
We joined them, and found it fine sport. The beach gave 
us a stretch of a mile or more, and the horses flew over 
the smooth, hard sand, apparently invigorated and excited by 
the salt sea-breeze, and by the continual roar and dashing 
of the breakers. From the beach we returned to the town, 
and, finding that the funeral procession had moved, rode on 
and overtook it, about half-way to the Mission. Here was 
as peculiar a sight as we had seen before in the house, the 
one looking as much like a funeral procession as the other 
did like a house of mourning. The little coffin was borne by 
eight girls, who were continually relieved by others running 
forward from the procession and taking their places. Behind 
it came a straggling company of girls, dressed, as before, in 
white and flowers, and including, I should suppose by their 
numbers, nearly all the girls between five and fifteen in the 
place. They played along on the way, frequently stopping 
and running all together to talk to some one, or to pick up a 
flower, and then running on again to overtake the coffin. 
There were a few elderly women in common colours ; and a 
herd of young men and boys, some on foot and others 
mounted, followed them, or walked or rode by their side, fre- 
quently interrupting them by jokes and questions. But the 
most singular thing of all was, that two men walked, one on 
each side of the coffin, carrying muskets in their hands, which 
they continually loaded, and fired into the air. Whether this 
was to keep off the evil spirits or not, I do not know. It was 
the only interpretation that I could put upon it. 

As we drew near the Mission, we saw the great gate thrown 
open, and the padre standing on the steps, with a crucifix in 
his hand. The Mission is a large and deserted-looking place, 
the out-buildings going to ruin, and everything giving one the 
impression of decayed grandeur. A large stone fountain threw 
out pure water, from four mouths, into a basin, before the 



EASTER SUNDAY 141 

church door ; and we were on the point of riding up to let 
our horses drink, when it occurred to us that it might be con- 
secrated, and we forebore. Just at this moment, the bells set 
up their harsh, discordant clangour, and the procession moved 
into the court. I wished to follow, and see the ceremony, but 
the horse of one of my companions had become frightened, 
and was tearing off toward the town ; and, having thrown his 
rider, and got one of his hoofs caught in the tackling of the 
saddle, which had slipped, was fast dragging and ripping it to 
pieces. Knowing that my shipmate could not speak a word 
of Spanish, and fearing that he would get into difficulty, I 
was obliged to leave the ceremony and ride after him. I soon 
overtook him, trudging along swearing at the horse, and carry- 
ing the remains of the saddle, which he had picked up on the 
road. Going to the owner of the horse, we made a settlement 
with him, and found him surprisingly liberal. All parts of the 
saddle were brought back, and, being capable of repair, he 
was satisfied with six reals. We thought it would have been 
a few dollars. We pointed to the horse, which was now half- 
way up one of the mountains ; but he shook his head, saying, 
*' No importa ! " and giving us to understand that he had plenty 
more. 

Having returned to the town, we saw a crowd collected in 
the square before the principal pulperia, and, riding up, found 
that all these people — men, women, and children — had been 
drawn together by a couple of bantam cocks. The cocks were 
in full tilt, springing into one another, and the people were as 
eager, laughing and shouting, as though the combatants had 
been men. There had been a disappointment about the bull ; 
he had broken his bail, and taken himself off, and it was too 
late to get another, so the people were obliged to put up with 
a cock-fight. One of the bantams having been knocked in the 
head, and having an eye put out, gave in, and two monstrous 
prize-cocks were brought on. These were the object of the 
whole affair ; the bantams having been merely served up as a 
first course, to collect the people together. Two fellows came 



142 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

into the ring holding the cocks in their arms, and stroking 
them, and running about on all-fours, encouraging and setting 
them on. Bets ran high, and, like most other contests, it re- 
mained for some time undecided. Both cocks showed great 
pluck, and fought probably better and longer than their masters 
would have done. Whether, in the end, it was the white or 
the red that beat, I do not recollect, but whichever it was, he 
strutted off with the true veni-vidi-vici look, leaving the other 
lying panting on his beam-ends. 

This matter having been settled, we heard some talk about 
" caballos " and " carrera," and seeing the people streaming 
off in one direction, we followed, and came upon a level piece 
of ground, just out of the town, which was used as a race- 
course. Here the crowd soon became thick again, the ground 
was marked off, the judges stationed, and the horses led up 
to one end. Two fine-looking old gentlemen — Don Carlos 
and Don Domingo, so called — held the stakes, and all was 
now ready. We waited some time, during which we could 
just see the horses twisting round and turning, until, at length, 
there was a shout along the lines, and on they came, heads 
stretched out and eyes starting, — working all over, both man 
and beast. The steeds came by us like a couple of chain 
shot, — neck and neck; and now we could see nothing but 
their backs and their hind hoofs flying in the air. As fast as 
the horses passed, the crowd broke up behind them, and ran to 
the goal. When we got there, we found the horses returning 
on a slow walk, having run far beyond the mark, and heard 
that the long, bony one had come in head and shoulders 
before the other. The riders were light-built men, had hand- 
kerchiefs tied round their heads, and were bare-armed and 
bare-legged. The horses were noble-looking beasts, not so 
sleek and combed as our Boston stable horses, but with fine 
limbs and spirited eyes. After this had been settled, and fully 
talked over, the crowd scattered again, and flocked back to 
the town. 

Returning to the large pulperia, we heard the violin and 



EASTER SUNDAY 1 43 

guitar screaming and twanging away under the piazza, where 
they had been all day. As it was now sundown, there began to 
be some dancing. The Italian sailors danced, and one of our 
crew exhibited himself in a sort of West India shuffle, much 
to the amusement of the bystanders, who cried out, "Bravo! " 
" Otra vez ! " and "Vivan los marineros ! " but the dancing 
did not become general, as the women and the "gente de 
razon " had not yet made their appearance. We wished very 
much to stay and see the style of dancing ; but, although we 
had had our own way during the day, yet we were, after all, 
but 'fore-mast Jacks ; and, having been ordered to be on the 
beach by sunset, did not venture to be more than an hour 
behind the time, so we took our way down. We found the 
boat just pulling ashore through the breakers, which were 
running high, there having been a heavy fog outside, which, 
from some cause or other, always brings on, or precedes, a 
heavy sea. Liberty-men are privileged from the time they 
leave the vessel until they step on board again ; so we took 
our places in the stern sheets, and were congratulating our- 
selves upon getting off dry, when a great comber broke fore 
and aft the boat, and wet us through and through, filling 
the boat half full of water. Having lost her buoyancy by the 
weight of the water, she dropped heavily into every sea that 
struck her, and by the time we had pulled out of the surf 
into deep water, she was but just afloat, and we were up to 
our knees. By the help of a small bucket and our hats, we 
bailed her out, got on board, hoisted the boats, eat our supper, 
changed our clothes, gave (as is usual) the whole history of 
our day's adventures to those who had stayed on board, and, 
having taken a night-smoke, turned in. Thus ended our 
second day's liberty on shore. 

On Monday morning, as an offset to our day's sport, we 
were all set to work '* tarring down " the rigging. Some got 
girt-lines up for riding down the stays and back-stays, and others 
tarred the shrouds, lifts, etc., laying out on the yards, and 
coming down the rigging. We overhauled our bags, and took 



144 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

out our old tarry trousers and frocks, which we had used when 
we tarred down before, and were all at work in the rigging by 
sunrise. After breakfast, we had the satisfaction of seeing 
the Italian ship's boat go ashore, filled with men, gayly dressed, 
as on the day before, and singing their barcarollas. The 
Easter holidays are kept up on shore for three days ; and, be- 
ing a Catholic vessel, her crew had the advantage of them. 
For two successive days, while perched up in the rigging, 
covered with tar and engaged in our disagreeable work, we 
saw these fellows going ashore in the morning, and coming 
off again at night, in high spirits. So much for being Protes- 
tants. There 's no danger of Catholicism's spreading in New 
England, unless the Church cuts down her holidays ; Yankees 
can't afford the time. American shipmasters get nearly three 
week's more labour out of their crews, in the course of a year, 
than the masters of vessels from Catholic countries. As 
Yankees don't usually keep Christmas, and shipmasters at 
sea never know when Thanksgiving comes, Jack has no festi- 
val at all. 

About noon, a man aloft called out " Sail ho ! " and, look- 
ing off, we saw the head sails of a vessel coming round the 
point. As she drew round, she showed the broadside of a 
full-rigged brig, with the Yankee ensign at her peak. We 
ran up our stars and stripes, and, knowing that there was no 
American brig on the coast but ours, expected to have news 
from home. She rounded-to and let go her anchor ; but the 
dark faces on her yards, when they furled the sails, and the 
babel on deck, soon made known that she was from the Islands. 
Immediately afterwards, a boat's crew came aboard, bringing 
her skipper, and from them we learned that she was from 
Oahu, and was engaged in the same trade with the Ayacucho 
and Loriotte, between the coast, the Sandwich Islands, and 
the leeward coast of Peru and Chili. Her captain and officers 
were Americans, and also a part of her crew ; the rest were 
Islanders. She was called the Catalina, and, like the vessels 
in that trade, except the Ayacucho, her papers and colours 



AMERICAN AND ITALIAN SAILORS I45 

were from Uncle Sam. They, of course, brought us no news, 
and we were doubly disappointed, for, we had thought, at first, 
it might be the ship which we were expecting from Boston. 

After lying here about a fortnight, and collecting all the 
hides the place afforded, we set sail again for San Pedro. 
There we found the brig which we had assisted in getting off, 
lying at anchor, with a mixed crew of Americans, English, 
Sandwich Islanders, Spaniards, and Spanish Indians; and 
though much smaller than we, yet she had three times the 
number of men ; and she needed them, for her officers were 
Californians. No vessels in the world go so sparingly manned 
as American and English ; and none do so well. A Yankee 
brig of that size would have had a crew of four men, and 
would have worked round and round her. The Italian ship 
had a crew of thirty men, nearly three times as many as the 
Alert, which was afterwards on the coast, and was of the same 
size ; yet the Alert would get under way and come-to in half 
the time, and get two anchors, while they were all talking at 
once, — jabbering like a parcel of "Yahoos," and running 
about decks to find their cat-block. 

There was only one point in which they had the advantage 
over us, and that was in lightening their labours in the boats 
by their songs. The Americans are a time and money saving 
people, but have not yet, as a nation, learned that music may 
be " turned to account." We pulled the long distances to and 
from the shore, with our loaded boats, without a word spoken, 
and with discontented looks, while they not only lightened the 
labor of rowing, but actually made it pleasant and cheerful, by 
their music. So true is it, that : — 

'^ For the tired slave, song lifts the languid oar, 
And bids it aptly fall, with chime 
That beautifies the fairest shore, 

And mitigates the harshest clime." 

After lying about a week in San Pedro, we got under way for 
San Diego, intending to stop at San Juan, as the southeaster 
season was nearly over, and there was little or no danger. 



146 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

This being the spring season, San Pedro, as well as all the 
other open ports upon the coast, was filled with whales, that 
had come in to make their annual visit upon soundings. For 
the first few days that we were here and at Santa Barbara, we 
watched them with great interest, calling out *' There she 
blows ! " every time we saw the spout of one breaking the sur- 
face of the water ; but they soon became so common that we 
took little notice of them. They often " broke " very near us, 
and one thick, foggy night, during a dead calm, while I was 
standing anchor-watch, one of them rose so near that he struck 
our cable, and made all surge again. He did not seem to like 
the encounter much himself, for he sheered off, and spouted at 
a good distance. We once came very near running one down 
in the gig, and should probably have been knocked to pieces 
or thrown sky-high. We had been on board the little Spanish 
brig, and were returning, stretching out well at our oars, the 
little boat going like a swallow ; our faces were turned aft (as 
is always the case in pulling), and the captain, who was steer- 
ing, was not looking out when, all at once, we heard the spout 
of a whale directly ahead. '* Back water ! back water, for 
your lives ! " shouted the captain ; and we backed our blades 
in the water, and brought the boat to in a smother of foam. 
Turning our heads, we saw a great, rough, hump-backed whale 
slowly crossing our fore foot, within three or four yards of the 
boat's stem. Had we not backed water just as we did, we 
should inevitably have gone smash upon him, striking him with 
our stem just about amidships. He took no notice of us, but 
passed slowly on, and dived a few yards beyond us, throwing 
his tail high in the air. He was so near that we had a perfect 
view of him, and, as may be supposed, had no desire to see 
him nearer. He was a disgusting creature, with a skin rough, 
hairy, and of an iron-gray colour. This kind differs much 
from the sperm, in colour and skin, and is said to be fiercer. 
We saw a few sperm whales ; but most of the whales that 
come upon the coast are fin-backs and hump-backs, which are 
more difficult to take, and are said not to give oil enough to 



SAN JUAN 147 

pay for the trouble. For this reason, whale-ships do not come 
upon the coast after them. Our captain, together with Cap- 
tain Nye of the Loriotte, who had been in a whale-ship, 
thought of making an attempt upon one of them with two 
boats' crews ; but as we had only two harpoons, and no proper 
lines, they gave it up. 

During the months of March, April, and May, these whales 
appear in great numbers in the open ports of Santa Barbara, 
San Pedro, etc., and hover off the coast, while a few find their 
way into the close harbours of San Diego and Monterey. They 
are all off again before mid-summer, and make their appearance 
on the "off-shore ground." We saw some fine "schools" of 
sperm whales, which are easily distinguished by their spout, 
blowing away, a few miles to windward, on our passage to San 
Juan. 

Coasting along on the quiet shore of the Pacific, we came 
to anchor in twenty fathoms' water, almost out at sea, as it 
were, and directly abreast of a steep hill which overhung the 
water, and was twice as high as our royal-mast-head. We had 
heard much of this place from the Lagoda's crew, who said it 
was the worst place in California. The shore is rocky, and 
directly exposed to the southeast, so that vessels are obliged 
to slip and run for their lives on the first sign of a gale ; and 
late as it was in the season, we got up our slip-rope and gear, 
though we meant to stay only twenty-four hours. We pulled 
the agent ashore, and were ordered to wait for him, while he 
took a circuitous way round the hill to the Mission, which was 
hidden behind it. We were glad of the opportunity to examine 
this singular place, and hauling the boat up, and making her 
well fast, took different directions up and down the beach, to 
explore it. 

San Juan is the only romantic spot on the coast. The 
country here for several miles is high table-land, running 
boldly to the shore, and breaking off in a steep cliff, at the 
foot of which the waters of the Pacific are constantly dashing. 
For several miles the water washes the very base of the hill, 



148 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

or breaks upon ledges and fragments of rocks which run out 
into the sea. Just where we landed was a small cove, or bight, 
which gave us, at high tide, a few square feet of sand-beach 
between the sea and the bottom of the hill. This was the 
only landing-place. Directly before us rose the perpendicular 
height of four or five hundred feet. How we were to get hides 
down, or goods up, upon the table-land on which the Mission 
was situated, was more than we could tell. The agent had 
taken a long circuit, and yet had frequently to jump over 
breaks, and climb steep places, in the ascent. No animal 
but a man or a monkey could get up it. However, that was 
not our lookout ; and, knowing that the agent would be gone 
an hour or more, we strolled about, picking up shells, and fol- 
lowing the sea where it tumbled in, roaring and spouting, 
among the crevices of the great rocks. What a sight, thought 
I, must this be in a southeaster ! The rocks were as large as 
those of Nahant or Newport, but, to my eye, more grand and 
broken. Beside, there was a grandeur in everything around, 
which gave a solemnity to the scene, a silence and solitariness 
which affected every part ! Not a human being but ourselves 
for miles, and no sound heard but the pulsations of the great 
Pacific ; and the great steep hill rising like a wall, and cutting us 
off from all the world, but the "world of waters " ! I separated 
myself from the rest, and sat down on a rock, just where the 
sea ran in and formed a fine spouting horn. Compared with 
the plain, dull sand-beach of the rest of the coast, this grandeur 
was as refreshing as a great rock in a weary land. It was 
almost the first time that I had been positively alone — free 
from the sense that human beings were at my elbow, if not 
talking with me — since I had left home. My better nature 
returned strong upon me. Everything was in accordance with 
my state of feeling, and I experienced a glow of pleasure at 
finding that what of poetry and romance I ever had in me 
had not been entirely deadened by the laborious life, with its 
paltry, vulgar associations, which I had been leading. Nearly 
an hour did I sit, almost lost in the luxury of this entire new 



SAN JUAN 149 

scene of the play in which I had been so long acting, when I 
was aroused by the distant shouts of my companions, and saw 
that they were collecting together, as the agent had made his 
appearance, on his way back to our boat. 

We pulled aboard, and found the long-boat hoisted out, and 
nearly laden with goods ; and, after dinner, we all went on 
shore in the quarter-boat, with the long-boat in tow. As we 
drew in, we descried an ox-cart and a couple of men standing 
directly on the brow of the hill ; and having landed, the cap- 
tain took his way round the hill, ordering me and one other 
to follow him. We followed, picking our way out and jump- 
ing and scrambling up, walking over briers and prickly pears, 
until we came to the top. Here the country stretched out 
for miles, as far as the eye could reach, on a level, table sur- 
face, and the only habitation in sight was the small white 
mission of San Juan Capistrano, with a few Indian huts about 
it, standing in a small hollow, about a mile from where we 
were. Reaching the brow of the hill, where the cart stood, 
we found several piles of hides, and Indians sitting round 
them. One or two other carts were coming slowly on from 
the Mission, and the captain told us to begin and throw the 
hides down. This, then, was the way they were to be got 
down, — thrown down, one at a time, a distance of four hun- 
dred feet ! This was doing the business on a great scale. 
Standing on the edge of the hill, and looking down the per- 
pendicular height, the sailors 

" That walked upon the beach 
Appeared like mice ; and our tall anchoring bark 
Diminished to her cock ; her cock a buoy 
Almost too small for sight." 

Down this height we pitched the hides, throwing them as 
far out into the air as we could ; and as they were all large, 
stiff, and doubled, like the cover of a book, the wind took them, 
and they swayed and eddied about, plunging and rising in the 
air, like a kite when it has broken its string. As it was now 



ISO TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

low tide, there was no danger of their falling into the water ; 
and, as fast as they came to ground, the men below picked 
them up, and, taking them on their heads, walked off with 
them to the boat. It was really a picturesque sight : the 
great height, the scaling of the hides, and the continual walk- 
ing to and fro of the men, who looked like mites, on the beach. 
This was the romance of hide droghing. 

Some of the hides lodged in cavities under the bank and 
out of our sight, being directly under us; but by pitching 
other hides in the same direction, we succeeded in dislodging 
them. Had they remained there, the captain said he should 
have sent on board for a couple of pairs of long halyards, and 
got some one to go down for them. It was said that one of 
the crew of an English brig went down in the same way, a few 
years before. We looked over, and thought it would not be a 
welcome task, especially for a few paltry hides ; but no one 
knows what he will do until he is called upon ; for, six months 
afterwards, I descended the same place by a pair of top-gallant 
studding-sail halyards, to save half a dozen hides which had 
lodged there. 

Having thrown them all over, we took our way back again, 
and found the boat loaded and ready to start. We pulled off, 
took the hides all aboard, hoisted in the boats, hove up our 
anchor, made sail, and before sundown were on our way to 
San Diego. 

Friday, May 8th, i8j^. Arrived at San Diego. We 
found the little harbour deserted. The Lagoda, Ayacucho, 
Loriotte, all had sailed from the coast, and we were left alone. 
All the hide-houses on the beach but ours were shut up, and 
the Sandwich Islanders, a dozen or twenty in number, who 
had worked for the other vessels, and been paid off when 
they sailed, were living on the beach, keeping up a grand 
carnival. There was a large oven on the beach, which, it 
seems, had been built by a Russian discovery-ship, that had 
been on the coast a few years ago, for baking her bread. This 
the Sandwich Islanders took possession of, and had kept ever 



SAN DIEGO AGAIN 151 

since, undisturbed. It was big enough to hold eight or ten 
men, and had a door at the side, and a vent-hole at top. They 
covered the floor with Oahu mats for a carpet, stopped up the 
vent-hole in bad weather, and made it their headquarters. It 
was now inhabited by as many as a dozen or twenty men, 
crowded together, who lived there in complete idleness, — 
drinking, playing cards, and carousing in every way. They 
bought a bullock once a week, which kept them in meat, and 
one of them went up to the town every day to get fruit, liquor, 
and provisions. Besides this, they had bought a cask of ship- 
bread, and a barrel of flour from the Lagoda, before she sailed. 
There they lived, having a grand time, and caring for nobody. 
Captain Thompson wished to get three or four of them to 
come on board the Pilgrim, as we were so much diminished 
in numbers, and went up to the oven, and spent an hour or 
two trying to negotiate with them. One of them, — a finely 
built, active, strong, and intelligent fellow, — who was a sort 
of king among them, acted as spokesman. He was called 
Mannini, - — or rather, out of compliment to his known im- 
portance and influence, Mr. Mannini, — and was known all 
over California. Through him, the captain offered them fifteen 
dollars a month, and one month's pay in advance ; but it was 
like throwing pearls before swine, or, rather, carrying coals to 
Newcastle. So long as they had money, they would not work 
for fifty dollars a month, and when their money was gone, they 
would work for ten. 

" What do you do here, Mr. Mannini .? " ^ said the 
captain. 

" Oh ! we play cards, get drunk, smoke, — do anything 
we 're a mind to." 

" Don't you want to come aboard and work ? " 

" Aole ! aole make make makou i ka hana. Now, got 
plenty money; no good, work. Mamule, money pau — all 
gone. Ah ! very good, work ! — maikai, hana hana nui ! " 

I The vowels in the Sandwich Island language have the sound of those in the 
languages of Continental Europe. 



152 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

"But you'll spend all your money in this way," said the 
captain. 

" Aye ! me know that. By-'em-by money pau — all gone ; 
then Kanaka work plenty." 

This was a hopeless case, and the captain left them, to 
wait patiently until their money was gone. 

We discharged our hides and tallow, and in about a week 
were ready to set sail again for the windward. We unmoored, 
and got everything ready, when the captain made another 
attempt upon the oven. This time he had more regard to the 
" mollia tempora fandi," and succeeded very well. He won 
over Mr. Mannini to his interest, and as the shot was getting 
low in the locker at the oven, prevailed upon him and three 
others to come on board with their chests and baggage, and 
sent a hasty summons to me and the boy to come ashore with 
our things, and join the gang at the hide-house. This was 
unexpected to me ; but anything in the way of variety I liked ; 
so we made ready, and were pulled ashore. I stood on the 
beach while the brig got under way, and watched her until she 
rounded the point, and then went to the hide-house to take up 
my quarters for a few months. 



CHAPTER XIX 

HERE was a change in my life as complete as it had 
been sudden. In the twinkling of an eye I was 
transformed from a sailor into a "beach-comber" and 
a hide-curer; yet the novelty and the comparative inde- 
pendence of the life were not unpleasant. Our hide-house 
was a large building, made of rough boards, and intended to 
hold forty thousand hides. In one corner of it a small room 
was parted off, in which four berths were made, where we 
were to live, with mother earth for our floor. It contained a 
table, a small locker for pots, spoons, plates, etc., and a small 
hole cut to let in the light. Here we put our chests, threw 
our bedding into the berths, and took up our quarters. Over 
our heads was another small room, in which Mr. Russell lived, 
who had charge of the hide-house, the same man who was for 
a time an officer of the Pilgrim. There he lived in solitary 
grandeur, eating and sleeping alone (and these were his prin- 
cipal occupations), and communing with his own dignity. 
The boy, a Marblehead hopeful, whose name was Sam, was to 
act as cook ; while I, a giant of a Frenchman named Nicholas, 
and four Sandwich Islanders were to cure the hides. Sam, 
Nicholas, and I lived together in the room, and the four 
Sandwich Islanders worked and ate with us, but generally 
slept at the oven. My new messmate, Nicholas, was the most 
immense man that I had ever seen. He came on the coast 
in a vessel which was afterwards wrecked, and now let himself 
out to the different houses to cure hides. He was consider- 
ably over six feet, and of a frame so large that he might have 
been shown for a curiosity. But the most remarkable thing 
about him was his feet. They were so large that he could not 
find a pair of shoes in California to fit him, and was obliged to 

153 



154 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

send to Oahu for a pair ; and when he got them, he was com- 
pelled to wear them down at the heel. He told me once that 
he was wrecked in an American brig on the Goodwin Sands, 
and was sent up to London, to the charge of the American 
consul, with scant clothing to his back and no shoes to his 
feet, and was obliged to go about London streets in his 
stocking-feet three or four days, in the month of January, until 
the consul could have a pair of shoes made for him. His 
strength was in proportion to his size, and his ignorance to his 
strength, — <' strong as an ox, and ignorant as strong." He 
knew how neither to read nor to write. He had been to sea 
from a boy, had seen all kinds of service, and been in all sorts 
of vessels, — merchantmen, men-of-war, privateers, and slavers ; 
and from what I could gather from his accounts of himself, 
and from what he once told me, in confidence, after we had 
become better acquainted, he had been in even worse business 
than slave-trading. He was once tried for his life in Charles- 
ton, South Carolina, and, though acquitted, was so frightened 
that he never would show himself in the United States again. 
I was not able to persuade him that he could not be tried a 
second time for the same offence. He said he had got safe 
off from the breakers, and was too good a sailor to risk his 
timbers again. 

Though I knew what his life had been, yet I never had the 
slightest fear of him. We always got along very well together, 
and, though so much older, stronger, and larger than I, he 
showed a marked respect for me, on account of my education, 
and of what he had heard of my situation before coming to 
sea, such as may be expected from a European of the humble 
class. " I '11 be good friends with you," he used to say, '* for 
by and by you '11 come out here captain, and then you '11 haze 
me well ! " By holding together, we kept the officer in good 
order, for he was evidently afraid of Nicholas, and never inter- 
fered with us, except when employed upon the hides. My 
other companions, the Sandwich Islanders, deserve particular 
notice. 



SANDWICH ISLANDERS 155 

A considerable trade has been carried on for several years 
between California and the Sandwich Islands, and most of the 
vessels are manned with Islanders, who, as they for the most 
part sign no articles, leave whenever they choose, and let them- 
selves out to cure hides at San Diego, and to supply the places 
of the men left ashore from the American vessels while on the 
coast. In this way a little colony of them had become settled 
at San Diego, as their headquarters. Some of these had re- 
cently gone off in the Ayacucho and Loriotte, and the Pilgrim 
had taken Mr. Mannini and three others, so that there were 
not more than twenty left. Of these, four were on pay at 
the Ayacucho's house, four more working with us, and the rest 
were living at the oven in a quiet way ; for their money was 
nearly gone, and they must make it last until some other vessel 
came down to employ them. 

During the four months that I lived here, I got well 
acquainted with all of them, and took the greatest pains to 
become familiar with their language, habits, and, characters. 
Their language I could only learn orally, for they had not any 
books among them, though many of them had been taught to 
read and write by the missionaries at home. They spoke a 
little English, and, by a sort of compromise, a mixed language 
was used on the beach, which could be understood by all. 
The long name of Sandwich Islanders is dropped, and they 
are called by the whites, all over the Pacific Ocean, '' Kanakas," 
from a word in their own language, — signifying, I believe, 
man, human being, — which they apply to themselves, and to all 
South Sea Islanders, in distinction from whites, whom they call 
*' Haole." This name, " Kanaka," they answer to, both collec- 
tively and individually. Their proper names in their own lan- 
guage being difficult to pronounce and remember, they are 
called by any names which the captains or crews may choose 
to give them. Some are called after the vessel they are in ; 
others by our proper names, as Jack, Tom, Bill ; and some 
have fancy names, as Ban-yan, Fore-top, Rope-yarn, Pelican, 
etc. Of the four who worked at our house, one was named 



156 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

" Mr. Bingham," after the missionary at Oahu ; another, Hope, 
after a vessel that he had been in ; a third, Tom Davis, the 
name of his first captain ; and the fourth, Pehcan, from his 
fancied resemblance to that bird. Then there was Lagoda- 
Jack, California-Bill, etc. But by whatever names they might 
be called, they were the most interesting, intelligent, and kind- 
hearted people that I ever fell in with. I felt a positive at- 
tachment for almost all of them ; and many of them I have, to 
this day, a feeling for, which would lead me to go a great way 
for the pleasure of seeing them, and which will always make 
me feel a strong interest in the mere name of a Sandwich 
Islander. 

Tom Davis knew how to read, write, and cipher in common 
arithmetic ; had been to the United States, and spoke English 
quite well. His education was as good as that of three 
quarters of the Yankees in California, and his manners and 
principles a good deal better ; and he was so quick of appre- 
hension that he might have been taught navigation, and the 
elements of many of the sciences, with ease. Old " Mr. 
Bingham " spoke very little English, — almost none, and 
could neither read nor write ; but he was the best-hearted old 
fellow in the world. He must have been over fifty years of 
age. He had two of his front teeth knocked out, which was 
done by his parents as a sign of grief at the death of Kame- 
hameha, the great king of the Sandwich Islands. We used 
to tell him that he ate Captain Cook, and lost his teeth in that 
way. That was the only thing that ever made him angry. 
He would always be quite excited at that, and say : " Aole ! " 
(No.) *' Me no eatee Cap'nee Cook ! Me pickaninny — small 
— so high — no more ! My fader see Cap'nee Cook ! Me — 
no ! " None of them liked to have anything said about Cap- 
tain Cook, for the sailors all believe that he was eaten, and 
that they cannot endure to be taunted with. *' New Zealand 
Kanaka eatee white man ; Sandwich Island Kanaka no. 
Sandwich Island Kanaka ua like pu na haole, — all 'e same 
a' you ! " 



SANDWICH ISLANDERS 157 

Mr. Bingham was a sort of patriarch among them, and was 
treated with great respect, though he had not the education 
and energy which gave Mr. Mannini his power over them. 
I have spent hours in talking with this old fellow about Kame- 
hameha, the Charlemagne of the Sandwich Islands ; his son 
and successor, Riho Riho, who died in England, and was 
brought to Oahu in the frigate Blonde, Captain Lord Byron, 
and whose funeral he remembered perfectly ; and also about 
the customs of his boyhood, and the changes which had been 
made by the missionaries. He never would allow that human 
beings had been eaten there ; and, indeed, it always seemed 
an insult to tell so affectionate, intelligent, and civilized a class 
of men that such barbarities had been practised in their own 
country within the recollection of many of them. Certainly, 
the history of no people on the globe can show anything like 
so rapid an advance from barbarism. I would have trusted 
my life and all I had in the hands of any one of these people ; 
and certainly, had I wished for a favour or act of sacrifice, I 
would have gone to them all, in turn, before I should have 
applied to one of my own countrymen on the coast, and should 
have expected to see it done, before my own countrymen had 
got half through counting the cost. Their customs, and man- 
ner of treating one another, show a simple, primitive gener- 
osity which is truly delightful, and which is often a reproach 
to our own people. Whatever one has they all have. Money, 
food, clothes, they share with one another, even to the last 
piece of tobacco to put in their pipes. I once heard old Mr. 
Bingham say, with the highest indignation, to a Yankee trader 
who was trying to persuade him to keep his money to him- 
self, " No ! we no all 'e same a' you ! — Suppose one got 
money, all got money. You, — suppose one got money — 
lock him up in chest. — No good!" — *' Kanaka all 'e same 
a' one ! " This principle they carry so far that none of them 
will eat anything in sight of others without offering it all 
round. I have seen one of them break a biscuit, which had 
been given him, into five parts, at a time when I knew he was 



158 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

on a very short allowance, as there was but little to eat on the 
beach. 

My favourite among all of them, and one who was liked 
by both officers and men, and by whomever he had anything 
to do with, was Hope. He was an intelligent, kind-hearted 
little fellow, and I never saw him angry, though I knew him 
for more than a year, and have seen him imposed upon by 
white people, and abused by insolent mates of vessels. He 
was always civil, and always ready, and never forgot a benefit. 
I once took care of him when he was ill, getting medicines from 
the ship's chests, when no captain or officer would do anything 
for him, and he never forgot it. Every Kanaka has one par- 
ticular friend, whom he considers himself bound to do every- 
thing for, and with whom he has a sort of contract, — an alli- 
ance offensive and defensive, — and for whom he will often 
make the greatest sacrifices. This friend they call aikane ; 
and for such did Hope adopt me. I do not believe I could 
have wanted anything which he had, that he would not have 
given me. In return for this, I was his friend among the 
Americans, and used to teach him letters and numbers ; for 
he left home before he had learned how to read. He was very 
curious respecting Boston (as they called the United States), 
asking many questions about the houses, the people, etc., and 
always wished to have the pictures in books explained to him. 
They were all astonishingly quick in catching at explanations, 
and many things which I had thought it utterly impossible to 
make them understand they often seized in an instant, and 
asked questions which showed that they knew enough to make 
them wish to go farther. The pictures of steamboats and rail- 
road cars, in the columns of some newspapers which I had, 
gave me great difficulty to explain. The grading of the road, 
the rails, the construction of the carriages, they could easily 
understand, but the motion produced by steam, was a little too 
refined for them. I attempted to show it to them once by an 
experiment upon the cook's coppers, but failed, — probably as 
much from my own ignorance as from their want of apprehen- 



SANDWICH ISLANDERS 159 

sion, and, I have no doubt, left them with about as clear an 
idea of the principle as I had myself. This difficulty, of course, 
existed in the same force with respect to the steamboats ; and 
all I could do was to give them some account of the results, in 
the shape of speed ; for, failing in the reason, I had to fall back 
upon the fact. In my account of the speed, I was supported 
by Tom, who had been to Nantucket, and seen a little steam- 
boat which ran over to New Bedford. And, by the way, it was 
strange to hear Tom speak of America, when the poor fellow 
had been all the way round Cape Horn and back, and had seen 
nothing but Nantucket. 

A map of the world, which I once showed them, kept their 
attention for hours ; those who knew how to read pointing out 
the places and referring to me for the distances. I remember 
being much amused with a question which Hope asked me^ 
Pointing to the large, irregular place which is always left blank 
round the poles, to denote that it is undiscovered, he looked up 
and asked, " Pau } " (Done } ended } ) 

The system of naming the streets and numbering the 
houses they easily understood, and the utility of it. They 
had a great desire to see America, but were afraid of doubling 
Cape Horn, for they suffer much in cold weather, and had 
heard dreadful accounts of the Cape from those of their num- 
ber who had been round it. 

They smoke a great deal, though not much at a time, using 
pipes with large bowls, and very short stems, or no stems at 
all. These they light, and, putting them to their mouths, take 
a long draught, getting their mouths as full as they can hold 
of smoke, and their cheeks distended, and then let it slowly 
out through their mouths and nostrils. The pipe is then 
passed to others, who draw in the same manner, — one pipe- 
full serving for half a dozen. They never take short, con- 
tinuous draughts, like Europeans, but one of these " Oahu 
puffs," as the sailors call them, serves for an hour or two, un- 
til some one else lights his pipe, and it is passed round in the 
same manner. Each Kanaka on the beach had a pipe, flint, 



l60 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

steel, tinder, a hand of tobacco, and a jack-knife, which he 
always carried about with him.' 

That which strikes a stranger most peculiarly is their style 
of singing. They run on, in a low, guttural, monotonous sort 
of chant, their lips and tongues seeming hardly to move, and 
the sounds apparently modulated solely in the throat. There 
is very little tune to it, and the words, so far as I could learn, 
are extempore. They sing about persons and things which 
are around them, and adopt this method when they do not 
wish to be understood by any but themselves ; and it is very 
effectual, for with the most careful attention I never could 
detect a word that I knew. I have often heard Mr. Mannini, 
who was the most noted improvisatore among them, sing for 
an hour together, when at work in the midst of Americans 
and Englishmen ; and, by the occasional shouts and laughter 
of the Kanakas, who were at a distance, it was evident that he 
was singing about the different men that he was at work with. 
They have great powers of ridicule, and are excellent mimics, 
many of them discovering and imitating the peculiarities of 
our own people before we had observed them ourselves. 

These were the people with whom I was to spend a few 
months, and who, with the exception of the officer, Nicholas, 
the Frenchman, and the boy, made the whole population of 
the beach. I ought, perhaps, to except the dogs, for they 
were an important part of our settlement. Some of the first 
vessels brought dogs out with them, who, for convenience, 
were left ashore, and there multiplied, until they came to be 
a great people. While I was on the beach, the average num- 
ber was about forty, and probably an equal, or greater, number 
are drowned, or killed in some other way, every year. They 
are very useful in guarding the beach, the Indians being afraid 
to come down at night ; for it was impossible for any one to 
get within half a mile of the hide-houses without a general 
alarm. The father of the colony, old Sachem, so called from 

I Matches had not come into use then. I think there were none on board any 
vessels on the coast. We used the tinder-box in our forecastle. 



HIDE-CURING l6l 

the ship in which he was brought out, died while I was there, 
full of years, and was honourably buried. Hogs and a few 
chickens were the rest of the animal tribe, and formed, like 
the dogs, a common company, though they were all known, 
and usually fed at the houses to which they belonged. 

I had been but a few hours on the beach, and the Pilgrim 
was hardly out of sight, when the cry of " Sail ho ! " was raised, 
and a small hermaphrodite brig rounded the point, bore up into 
the harbour, and came to anchor. It was the Mexican brig 
Fazio, which we had left at San Pedro, and which had come 
down to land her tallow, try it all over, and make new bags, 
and then take it in and leave the coast. They moored ship, 
erected their try-works on shore, put up a small tent, in which 
they all lived, and commenced operations. This addition gave 
a change and variety to our society, and we spent many even- 
ings in their tent, where, amid the babel of English, Spanish, 
French, Indian, and Kanaka, we found some words that we 
could understand in common. 

The morning after my landing, I began the duties of hide- 
curing. In order to understand these, it will be necessary to 
give the whole history of a hide, from the time it is taken from 
a bullock until it is put on board the vessel to be carried to 
Boston. When the hide is taken from the bullock, holes are 
cut round it, near the edge, by which it is staked out to dry. 
In this manner it dries without shrinking. After the hides 
are thus dried in the sun, and doubled with the skin out, they 
are received by the vessels at the different ports on the coast, 
and brought down to the depot at San Diego. The vessels 
land them, and leave them in large piles near the houses. 
Then begins the hide-curer's duty. 

The first thing is to put them in soak. This is done by 
carrying them down at low tide, and making them fast, in 
small piles, by ropes, and letting the tide come up and cover 
them. Every day we put in soak twenty-five for each man, 
which, with us, made a hundred and fifty. There they lie 
forty-eight hours, when they are taken out, and rolled up, in 



1 62 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

wheelbarrows, and thrown into the vats. These vats contain 
brine, made very strong, — being sea-water, with great quan- 
tities of salt thrown in. This pickles the hides, and in this 
they lie forty-eight hours ; the use of the sea-water, into which 
they are first put, being merely to soften and clean them. 
From these vats they are taken, and lie on a platform for 
twenty-four hours, and then are spread upon the ground, and 
carefully stretched and staked out, with the skin up, that they 
may dry smooth. After they had been staked, and while yet 
wet and soft, we used to go upon them with our knives, and 
carefully cut off all the bad parts, — the pieces of meat and 
fat, which would corrupt and infect the whole if stowed away 
in a vessel for many months, the large flippers, the ears, and 
all other parts which would prevent close stowage. This was 
the most difficult part of our duty, as it required much skill to 
take off everything that ought to come off, and not to cut or 
injure the hide. It was also a long process, as six of us had 
to clean a hundred and fifty, most of which required a great 
deal to be done to them, as the Spaniards are very careless in 
skinning their cattle. Then, too, as we cleaned them while 
they were staked out, we were obliged to kneel down upon 
them, which always gives beginners the backache. The first 
day I was so slow and awkward that I cleaned only eight ; at 
the end of a few days I doubled my number ; and, in a fort- 
night or three weeks, could keep up with the others, and clean 
my twenty-five. 

This cleaning must be got through with before noon, for 
by that time the hides get too dry. After the sun has been 
upon them a few hours, they are carefully gone over with 
scrapers, to get off all the grease which the sun brings out. 
This being done, the stakes are pulled up, and the hides care- 
fully doubled, with the hair side out, and left to dry. About 
the middle of the afternoon they are turned over, for the other 
side to dry, and at sundown piled up and covered over. The 
next day they are spread out and opened again, and at night, 
if fully dry, are thrown upon a long, horizontal pole, five at a 



HIDE-CURING 163 

time, and beaten with flails. This takes all the dust from 
them. Then, having been salted, scraped, cleaned, dried, 
and beaten, they are stowed away in the house. Here ends 
their history, except that they are taken out again when the 
vessel is ready to go home, beaten, stowed away on board, 
carried to Boston, tanned, made into shoes and other articles 
for which leather is used, and many of them, very probably, 
in the end, brought back again to California in the shape of 
shoes, and worn out in the pursuit of other bullocks, or in the 
curing of other hides. 

By putting a hundred and fifty in soak every day, we had 
the same number at each stage of curing on each day; so 
that we had, every day, the same work to do upon the same 
number, — a hundred and fifty to put in soak, a hundred and 
fifty to wash out and put in the vat, the same number to haul 
from the vat and put on the platform to drain, the same num- 
ber to spread, and stake out, and clean, and the same number 
to beat and stow away in the house. I ought to except Sun- 
day ; for, by a prescription which no captain or agent has yet 
ventured to break in upon, Sunday has been a day of leisure 
on the beach for years. On Saturday night, the hides, in 
every stage of progress, are carefully covered up, and not un- 
covered until Monday morning. On Sundays we had abso- 
lutely no work to do, unless it might be to kill a bullock, which 
was sent down for our use about once a week, and sometimes 
came on Sunday. Another advantage of the hide-curing life 
was, that we had just so much work to do, and when that was 
through, the time was our own. Knowing this, we worked 
hard, and needed no driving. We " turned out " every morn- 
ing with the first signs of daylight, and allowing a short time, 
at about eight o'clock, for breakfast, generally got through our 
labour between one and two o'clock, when we dined, and had 
the rest of the time to ourselves, until just before sundown, 
when we beat the dry hides and put them in the house, and 
covered over all the others. By this means we had about 
three hours to ourselves every afternoon, and at sundown we 



l64 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

had our supper, and our work was done for the day. There 
was no watch to stand, and no topsails to reef. The evenings 
we generally spent at one another's houses, and I often went 
up and spent an hour or so at the oven, which was called the 
"Kanaka Hotel," and the " Oahu Coffee-house." Immedi- 
ately after dinner we usually took a short siesta, to make up 
for our early rising, and spent the rest of the afternoon accord- 
ing to our own fancies. I generally read, wrote, and made or 
mended clothes ; for necessity, the mother of invention, had 
taught me these two latter arts. The Kanakas went up to the 
oven, and spent the time in sleeping, talking, and smoking, 
and my messmate, Nicholas, who neither knew how to read 
nor write, passed away the time by a long siesta, two or three 
smokes with his pipe, and a paseo to the other houses. This 
leisure time is never interfered with, for the captains know 
that the men earn it by working hard and fast, and that, if 
they interfered with it, the men could easily make their 
twenty-five hides apiece last through the day. We were 
pretty independent, too, for the master of the house — " capi- 
tan de la casa" — had nothing to say to us, except when we 
were at work on the hides ; and although we could not go 
up to the town without his permission, this was seldom or 
never refused. 

The great weight of the wet hides, which we were obliged 
to roll about in wheelbarrows ; the continual stooping upon 
those which were pegged out to be cleaned ; and the smell of 
the nasty vats, into which we were often obliged to wade, 
knee-deep, to press down the hides, — all made the work dis- 
agreeable and fatiguing ; but we soon became hardened to it, 
and the comparative independence of our life reconciled us to 
it, for there was nobody to haze us and find fault ; and when 
we were through for the day, we had only to wash and change 
our clothes, and our time was our own. There was, however, 
one exception to the time's being our own, which was, that on 
two afternoons of every week we were obliged to go off for 
wood for the cook to use in the galley. Wood is very scarce 



WOOD-CUTTING 16$ 

in the vicinity of San Diego, there being no trees of any size 
for miles. In the town, the inhabitants burn the small wood 
which grows in thickets, and for which they send out Indians, 
in large numbers, every few days. Fortunately, the climate 
is so fine that they have no need of a fire in their houses, and 
only use it for cooking. With us, the getting of wood was a 
great trouble ; for all that in the vicinity of the houses had 
been cut down, and we were obliged to go off a mile or two, 
and to carry it some distance on our backs, as we could not 
get the hand-cart up the hills and over the uneven places. 
Two afternoons in the week, generally Monday and Thursday, 
as soon as we were through dinner, we started off for the bush, 
each of us furnished with a hatchet and a long piece of rope, 
and dragging the hand-cart behind us, and followed by the 
whole colony of dogs, who were always ready for the bush, 
and were half mad whenever they saw our preparations. We 
went with the hand-cart as far as we could conveniently drag 
it, and, leaving it in an open, conspicuous place, separated 
ourselves, each taking his own course, and looking about for 
some good place to begin upon. Frequently, we had to go 
nearly a mile from the hand-cart before we could find any 
fit place. Having lighted upon a good thicket, the next thing 
was to clear away the underbrush, and have fair play at the 
trees. These trees are seldom more than five or six feet high, 
and the highest that I ever saw in these expeditions could not 
have been more than twelve, so that, with lopping off the 
branches and clearing away the underwood, we had a good 
deal of cutting to do for a very little wood. Having cut 
enough for a '^ back-load," the next thing was to make it well 
fast with the rope, and heaving the bundle upon our backs, and 
taking the hatchet in hand, to walk off, up hill and down dale, 
to the hand-cart. Two good back-loads apiece filled the hand- 
cart, and that was each one's proportion. When each had 
brought down his second load, we filled the hand-cart, and 
took our way again slowly back to the beach. It was gener- 
ally sundown when we got back; and unloading, covering the 



1 66 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

hides for the night, and getting our supper, finished the day's 
work. 

These wooding excursions had always a mixture of some- 
thing rather pleasant in them. Roaming about in the woods 
with hatchet in hand, like a backwoodsman, followed by a troop 
of dogs, starting up birds, snakes, hares, and foxes, and ex- 
amining the various kinds of trees, flowers, and birds'-nests, 
was, at least, a change from the monotonous drag and pull on 
shipboard. Frequently, too, we had some amusement and 
adventure. The coyotes, of which I have before spoken, — 
a sort of mixture of the fox and wolf breeds, — fierce little 
animals, with bushy tails and large heads, and a quick, sharp 
bark, abound here, as in all other parts of California. These 
the dogs were very watchful for, and, whenever they saw them, 
started off in full run after them. We had many fine chases ; 
yet, although our dogs ran fast, the rascals generally escaped. 
They are a match for the dog, — one to one, — but as the dogs 
generally went in squads, there was seldom a fair fight. A 
smaller dog, belonging to us, once attacked a coyote single, and 
was considerably worsted, and might, perhaps, have been killed, 
had we not come to his assistance. We had, however, one dog 
which gave them a good deal of trouble and many hard runs. 
He was a fine, tall fellow, and united strength and agility better 
than any dog that I have ever seen. He was born at the Islands, 
his father being an English mastiff and his mother a greyhound. 
He had the high head, long legs, narrow body, and springing 
gait of the latter, and the heavy jaw, thick jowls, and strong 
forequarters of the mastiff. When he was brought to San 
Diego, an English sailor said that he looked, about the face, 
Hke the Duke of Wellington, whom he had once seen at the 
Tower ; and, indeed, there was something about him which 
resembled the portraits of the Duke. From this time he was 
christened *' Welly," and became the favourite and bully of the 
beach. He always led the dogs by several yards in the chase, 
and had killed two coyotes at different times in single combats. 
We often had fine sport with these fellows. A quick, sharp 



COYOTES 167 

bark from a coyote, and in an instant every dog was at the 
height of his speed. A few minutes made up for an unfair 
start, and gave each dog his right place. Welly, at the head, 
seemed almost to skim over the bushes, and after him came 
Fanny, Feliciana, Childers, and the other fleet ones, — the 
spaniels and terriers ; and then, behind, followed the heavy 
corps, — bulldogs, etc., for we had every breed. Pursuit by 
us was in vain, and in about half an hour the dogs would begin 
to come panting and straggling back. 

Besides the coyotes, the dogs sometimes made prizes of rab- 
bits and hares, which are plentiful here, and numbers of which 
we often shot for our dinners. Among the other animals there 
was a reptile I was not so much disposed to find amusement 
from, the rattlesnake. These snakes are very abundant here, 
especially during the spring of the year. The latter part of 
the time that I was on shore, I did not meet with so many, but 
for the first two months we seldom went into "the bush " with- 
out one of our number starting some of them. I remember 
perfectly well the first one that I ever saw. I had left my com- 
panions, and was beginning to clear away a fine clump of trees, 
when, just in the midst of the thicket, but a few yards from 
me, one of these fellows set up his hiss. It is a sharp, con- 
tinuous sound, and resembles very much the letting off of the 
steam from the small pipe of a steamboat, except that it is on 
a smaller scale. I knew, by the sound of an axe, that one of 
my companions was near, and called out to him, to let him 
know what I had fallen upon. He took it very lightly, and as 
he seemed inclined to laugh at me for being afraid, I deter- 
mined to keep my place. I knew that so long as I could hear 
the rattle I was safe, for these snakes never make a noise when 
they are in motion. Accordingly I continued my work, and 
the noise which I made with cutting and breaking the trees 
kept him in alarm ; so that I had the rattle to show me his 
whereabouts. Once or twice the noise stopped for a short 
time, which gave me a little uneasiness, and, retreating a few 
steps, I threw something into the bush at which he would set 



l68 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

his rattle a-going, and, finding that he had not moved from his 
first place, I was easy again. In this way I continued at my 
work until I had cut a full load, never suffering him to be 
quiet for a moment. Having cut my load, I strapped it to- 
gether, and got everything ready for starting, I felt that I 
could now call the others without the imputation of being 
afraid, and went in search of them. In a few minutes we 
were all collected, and began an attack upon the bush. The 
big Frenchman, who was the one that I had called to at first, 
I found as little inclined to approach the snake as I had been. 
The dogs, too, seemed afraid of the rattle, and kept up a bark- 
ing at a safe distance ; but the Kanakas showed no fear, and, 
getting long sticks, went into the bush, and, keeping a bright 
lookout, stood within a few feet of him. One or two blows 
struck near him, and a few stones thrown started him, and we 
lost his track, and had the pleasant consciousness that he might 
be directly under our feet. By throwing stones and chips in 
different directions, we made him spring his rattle again, and 
began another attack. This time we drove him into the clear 
ground, and saw him gliding off, with head and tail erect, when 
a stone, well aimed, knocked him over the bank, down a de- 
clivity of fifteen or twenty feet, and stretched him at his length. 
Having made sure of him by a few more stones, we went down, 
and one of the Kanakas cut off his rattle. These rattles vary 
in number, it is said, according to the age of the snake ; though 
the Indians think they indicate the number of creatures they 
have killed. We always preserved them as trophies, and at 
the end of the summer had a considerable collection. None 
of our people were bitten by them, but one of our dogs died 
of a bite, and another was supposed to have been bitten, but 
recovered. We had no remedy for the bite, though it was 
said that the Indians of the country had, and the Kanakas 
professed to have an herb which would cure it, but it was for- 
tunately never brought to the test. 

Hares and rabbits, as I said before, were abundant, and, 
during the winter months, the waters are covered with wild 



RATTLESNAKES I 69 

ducks and geese. Crows, too, abounded, and frequently 
alighted in great numbers upon our hides, picking at the 
pieces of dried meat and fat. Bears and wolves are numerous 
in the upper parts of the coast, and in the interior (and, in- 
deed, a man was killed by a bear within a few miles of San 
Pedro, while we were there), but there were none in our 
immediate neighbourhood. The only other animals were 
horses. More than a dozen of these were owned by men on 
the beach, and were allowed to run loose among the hills, with 
a long lasso attached to them, to pick up feed wherever they 
could find it. We were sure of seeing them once a day, for 
there was no water among the hills, and they were obliged to 
come down to the well which had been dug upon the beach. 
These horses were bought at from two to six and eight dollars 
apiece, and were held very much as common property. We 
generally kept one fast to one of the houses, so that we could 
mount him and catch any of the others. Some of them were 
really fine animals, and gave us many good runs up to the 
Presidio and over the country. 



CHAPTER XX 

AFTER we had been a few weeks on shore, and had be- 
gun to feel broken into the regularity of our life, its 
monotony was interrupted by the arrival of two vessels 
from the windward. We were sitting at dinner in our little 
room, when we heard the cry of " Sail ho ! " This, we had 
learned, did not always signify a vessel, but was raised when- 
ever a woman was seen coming down from the town, or an 
ox-cart, or anything unusual, hove in sight upon the road ; so 
we took no notice of it. But it soon became so loud and gen- 
eral from all parts of the beach that we were led to go to the 
door ; and there, sure enough, were two sails coming round 
the point, and leaning over from the strong northwest wind, 
which blows down the coast every afternoon. The headmost 
was a ship, and the other a brig. Everybody was alive on the 
beach, and all manner of conjectures were abroad. Some said 
it was the Pilgrim, with the Boston ship, which we were ex- 
pecting ; but we soon saw that the brig was not the Pilgrim, 
and the ship, with her stump top-gallant-masts and rusty sides, 
could not be a dandy Boston Indiaman. As they drew nearer, 
we discovered the high poop, and top-gallant forecastle, and 
other marks of the Italian ship Rosa, and the brig proved to 
be the Catalina, which we saw at Santa Barbara, just arrived 
from Valparaiso. They came to anchor, moored ship, and 
began discharging hides and tallow. The Rosa had purchased 
the house occupied by the Lagoda, and the Catalina took the 
other spare one between ours and the Ayacucho's, so that now 
each house was occupied, and the beach, for several days, was 
all animation. The Catalina had several Kanakas on board, 
who were immediately laid hold of by the others, and carried 
up to the oven, where they had a long pow-wow and a smoke. 

170 



NEW COMERS I/I 

Two Frenchmen, who belonged to the Rosa's crew, came in 
every evening to see Nicholas ; and from them we learned 
that the Pilgrim was at San Pedro, and was the only vessel 
from the United States now on the coast. Several of the 
Italians slept on shore at their hide-house ; and there, and at 
the tent in which the Fazio's crew lived, we had some singing 
almost every evening. The Italians sang a variety of songs, 
— barcarollas, provincial airs, etc. ; in several of which I recog- 
nized parts of our favourite operas and sentimental songs. 
They often joined in a song, taking the different parts, which 
produced a fine effect, as many of them had good voices, and 
all sang with spirit. One young man, in particular, had a 
falsetto as clear as a clarionet. 

The greater part of the crews of the vessels came ashore 
every evening, and we passed the time in going about from 
one house to another, and listening to all manner of languages. 
The Spanish was the most common ground upon which we 
all met ; for every one knew more or less of that. We had 
now, out of forty or fifty, representatives from almost every 
nation under the sun, — two Englishmen, three Yankees, two 
Scotchmen, two Welshmen, one Irishman, three Frenchmen 
(two of whom were Normans, and the third from Gascony), 
one Dutchman, one Austrian, two or three Spaniards (from 
old Spain), half a dozen Spanish-Americans and half-breeds, 
two native Indians from Chili and the Island of Chiloe, one 
negro, one mulatto, about twenty Italians, from all parts of 
Italy, as many more Sandwich Islanders, one Tahitian, and 
one Kanaka from the Marquesas Islands. 

The night before the vessels were ready to sail, all the 
Europeans united and had an entertainment at the Rosa's 
hide-house, and we had songs of every nation and tongue. A 
German gave us '' Ach ! mein lieber Augustin ! " the three 
Frenchmen roared through the Marseillaise Hymn ; the Eng- 
lish and Scotchmen gave us ''Rule Britannia," and "Wha'll 
be King but Charlie ,? " the Italians and Spaniards screamed 
through some national affairs, for which I was none the wiser ; 



172 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and we three Yankees made an attempt at the " Star-spangled 
Banner." After these national tributes had been paid, the 
Austrian gave us a pretty little love-song, and the Frenchmen 
sang a spirited thing, — " Sentinelle ! O prenez garde a vous ! " 
— and then followed the melange which might have been ex- 
pected. When I left them, the aguardiente and annisou were 
pretty well in their heads, they were all singing and talking 
at once, and their peculiar national oaths were getting as plenty 
as pronouns. 

The next day, the two vessels got under way for the wind- 
ward, and left us in quiet possession of the beach. Our num- 
bers were somewhat enlarged by the opening of the new 
houses, and the society of the beach was a little changed. In 
charge of the Catalina's house was an old Scotchman, Robert, 
who, like most of his countrymen, had some education, and, 
like many of them, was rather pragmatical, and had a ludi- 
crously solemn conceit of himself. He employed his time in 
taking care of his pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs, etc., and in 
smoking his long pipe. Everything was as neat as a pin in the 
house, and he was as regular in his hours as a chronometer, 
but, as he kept very much by himself, was not a great addition 
to our society. He hardly spent a cent all the time he was on 
the beach, and the others said he was no shipmate. He had 
been a petty officer on board the British frigate Dublin, Cap- 
tain Lord James Townshend, and had great ideas of his own 
importance. The man in charge of the Rosa's house, Schmidt, 
was an Austrian, but spoke, read, and wrote four languages 
with ease and correctness. German was his native tongue, 
but being born near the borders of Italy, and having sailed 
out of Genoa, the Italian was almost as familiar to him as his 
own language. He was six years on board of an English 
man-of-war, where he learned to speak our language easily, 
and also to read and write it. He had been several years in 
Spanish vessels, and had acquired that language so well that 
he could read books in it. He was between forty and fifty 
years of age, and was a singular mixture of the man-of-war's- 



PEOPLE AT THE HIDE-HOUSES 173 

man and Puritan. He talked a great deal about propriety and 
steadiness, and gave good advice to the youngsters and 
Kanakas, but seldom went up to the town without coming 
down "three sheets in the wind." One holiday, he and old 
Robert (the Scotchman from the Catalina) went up to the town, 
and got so cosey, talking over old stories and giving each other 
good advice, that they came down, double-backed, on a horse, 
and both rolled off into the sand as soon as the horse stopped. 
This put an end to their pretensions, and they never heard 
the last of it from the rest of the men. On the night of the 
entertainment at the Rosa's house, I saw old Schmidt (that 
was the Austrian's name) standing up by a hogshead, holding 
on by both hands, and calling out to himself : " Hold on, 
Schmidt ! hold on, my good fellow, or you '11 be on your 
back ! " Still, he was an intelligent, good-natured old fellow, 
and had a chest full of books, which he willingly lent me to read. 
In the same house with him were a Frenchman and an Eng- 
lishman, the latter a regular-built "man-o'-war Jack," a thor- 
ough seaman, a hearty, generous fellow, and, at the same time, 
a drunken, dissolute dog. He made it a point to get drunk 
every time he went to the Presidio, when he always managed 
to sleep on the road, and have his money stolen from him. 
These, with a Chilian and half a dozen Kanakas, formed the 
addition to our company. 

In about six weeks from the time when the Pilgrim sailed, 
we had all the hides which she left us cured and stowed away ; 
and having cleared up the ground and emptied the vats, and 
set everything in order, had nothing more to do, until she 
should come down again, but to supply ourselves with wood. 
Instead of going twice a week for this purpose, we determined 
to give one whole week to getting wood, and then we should 
have enough to last us half through the summer. Accord- 
ingly we started off every morning, after an early breakfast, 
with our hatchets in hand, and cut wood until the sun was over 
the point, — which was our mark for noon, as there was not a 
watch on the beach, — and then came back to dinner, and after 



174 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

dinner started off again with our hand-cart and ropes, and 
carted and ''backed " it down until sunset. This we kept up 
for a week, until we had collected several cords, — enough 
to last us for six or eight weeks, — when we "knocked off" 
altogether, much to my joy ; for, though I liked straying in 
the woods, and cutting, very well, yet the backing the wood 
for so great a distance, over an uneven country, was, without 
exception, the hardest work I had ever done. I usually had 
to kneel down, and contrive to heave the load, which was 
well strapped together, upon my back, and then rise up and 
start off with it, up the hills and down the vales, sometimes 
through thickets, — the rough points sticking into the skin 
and tearing the clothes, so that, at the end of the week I had 
hardly a whole shirt to my back. 

We were now through all our work, and had nothing more 
to do until the Pilgrim should come down again. We had 
nearly got through our provisions too, as well as our work ; 
for our officer had been very wasteful of them, and the tea, 
flour, sugar, and molasses were all gone. We suspected him 
of sending them up to the town ; and he always treated the 
squaws with molasses when they came down to the beach. 
Finding wheat-coffee and dry bread rather poor living, we 
clubbed together, and I went to the town on horseback, with 
a great salt-bag behind the saddle, and a few reals in my pocket, 
and brought back the bag full of onions, beans, pears, water- 
melons, and other fruits ; for the young woman who tended 
the garden, finding that I belonged to the American ship, 
and that we were short of provisions, put in a larger portion. 
With these we lived like fighting-cocks for a week or two, and 
had, besides, what the sailors call a "blow-out on sleep," not 
turning out in the morning until breakfast was ready. I em- 
ployed several days in overhauling my chest, and mending up 
all my old clothes, until I had put everything in order, — " patch 
upon patch, like a sand-barge's mainsail." Then I took hold 
of Bowditch's Navigator, which I had always with me. I had 
been through the greater part of it, and now went carefully 



PILGRIM — NEWS FROM HOME 1/5 

over it from beginning to end, working out most of the ex- 
amples. That done, and there being no signs of the Pilgrim, 
I made a descent upon old Schmidt, and borrowed and read all 
the books there were upon the beach. Such a dearth was 
there of these latter articles, that anything, even a little child's 
story-book, or the half of a shipping calendar, seemed a treas- 
ure. I actually read a jest-book through, from beginning to 
end, in one day, as I should a novel, and enjoyed it much. At 
last, when I thought that there was no more to be had, I found 
at the bottom of old Schmidt's chest, ^' Mandeville, a Romance, 
by Godwin, in five volumes." This I had never read, but 
Godwin's name was enough, and, after the wretched trash I 
had devoured, anything bearing the name of an intellectual 
man was a prize indeed. I bore it off, and for two days I was 
up early and late, reading with all my might, and actually drink- 
ing in delight. It is no extravagance to say that it was like a 
spring in a desert land. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous — so, with me, from 
Mandeville to hide-curing — was but a step ; for — 

Wednesday y July i8th, brought us the brig Pilgrim from 
the windward. As she came in, we found that she was a good 
deal altered in her appearance. Her short top-gallant-masts 
were "up, her bowlines all unrove (except to the courses), the 
quarter boom-irons off her lower yards, her jack-cross-trees 
sent down, several blocks got rid of, running rigging rove in 
new places, and numberless other changes of the same char- 
acter. Then, too, there was a new voice giving orders, and a 
new face on the quarter-deck, — a short, dark-complexioned 
man, in a green jacket and a high leather cap. These changes, 
of course, set the whole beach on the qui-vive, and we were all 
waiting for the boat to come ashore, that we might have things 
explained. At length, after the sails were furled and the an- 
chor carried out, her boat pulled ashore, and the news soon 
flew that the expected ship had arrived at Santa Barbara, and 
that Captain Thompson had taken command of her, and her 
captain, Faucon, had taken the Pilgrim, and was the green- 



176 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

jacketed man on the quarter-deck. The boat put directly 
off again, without giving us time to ask any more questions, 
and we were obliged to wait till night, when we took a little 
skiff, that lay on the beach, and paddled off. When I stepped 
aboard, the second mate called me aft, and gave me a large 
bundle, directed to me, and marked " Ship Alert." This was 
what I had longed for, yet I refrained from opening it until 
I went ashore. Diving down into the forecastle, I found the 
same old crew, and was really glad to see them again. Numer- 
ous inquiries passed as to the new ship, the latest news from 
Boston, etc. Stimson had received letters from home, and 
nothing remarkable had happened. The Alert was agreed on 
all hands to be a fine ship, and a large one : " Larger than the 
Rosa," — " Big enough to carry off all the hides in California," 
— ^' Rail as high as a man's head," — "A crack ship," — "A 
regular dandy," etc. Captain Thompson took command of 
her, and she went directly up to Monterey ; thence she was 
to go to San Francisco, and probably would not be in San 
Diego under two or three months. Some of the Pilgrim's 
crew found old shipmates aboard of her, and spent an hour or 
two in her forecastle the evening before she sailed. They said 
her decks were as white as snow, — holystoned every morn- 
ing, like a man-of-war's ; everything on board " ship-shape and 
Bristol fashion " ; a fine crew, three mates, a sailmaker and car- 
penter, and all complete. " They 've got a man for mate of 
that ship, and not a bloody sheep about decks ! " — ^' A mate 
that knows his duty, and makes everybody do theirs, and won't 
be imposed upon by either captain or crew." After collecting 
all the information we could get on this point, we asked some- 
thing about their new captain. He had hardly been on board 
long enough for them to know much about him, but he had 
taken hold strong, as soon as he took command, — shifting the 
top-gallant-masts, and unreeving all the studding-sail gear and 
half the running rigging, the very first day. 

Having got all the news we could, we pulled ashore ; and 
as soon as we reached the house, I, as might be supposed, fell 



OCCUPATION ON THE BEACH 1/7 

directly to opening my bundle, and found a reasonable supply 
of duck, flannel shirts, shoes, etc., and, what was still more 
valuable, a packet of eleven letters. These I sat up nearly all 
night reading, and put them carefully away, to be re-read again 
and again at my leisure. Then came half a dozen newspapers, 
the last of which gave notice of Thanksgiving, and of the clear- 
ance of " ship Alert, Edward H. Faucon, master, for Callao and 
California, by Bryant, Sturgis, & Co." Only those who have 
been on distant voyages, and after a long absence received a 
newspaper from home, can understand the delight that they 
give one. I read every part of them, — the houses to let, 
things lost or stolen, auction sales, and all. Nothing carries 
you so entirely to a place, and makes you feel so perfectly at 
home, as a newspaper. The very name of "Boston Daily 
Advertiser" "sounded hospitably upon the ear." 

The Pilgrim discharged her hides, which set us at work 
again, and in a few days we were in the old routine of dry 
hides, wet hides, cleaning, beating, etc. Captain Faucon came 
quietly up to me, as I was sitting upon a stretched hide, cut- 
ting the meat from it with my knife, and asked me how I liked 
California, and repeated, — 

" Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi." 

Very apropos, thought I, and, at the same time, shows that yoii 
have studied Latin. However, it was kind of him, and an at- 
tention from a captain is a thing not to be slighted. Thomp- 
son's majesty could not have bent to it, in the sight of so many 
mates and men ; but Faucon was a man of education, literary 
habits, and good social position, and held things at their right 
value. 

Saturday^ July nth. The Pilgrim set sail for the wind- 
ward, and left us to go on in our old way. Having laid in such 
a supply of wood, and the days being now long, and invariably 
pleasant, we had a good deal of time to ourselves. The duck 
I received from home I soon made up into trousers and frocks, 
and, having formed the remnants of the duck into a cap, I dis- 



178 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

played myself, every Sunday, in a complete suit of my own 
make from head to foot. Reading, mending, sleeping, with 
occasional excursions into the bush, with the dogs, in search 
of coyotes, hares, and rabbits, or to encounter a rattlesnake, 
and now and then a visit to the Presidio, filled up our spare 
time after hide-curing was over for the day. Another amuse- 
ment which we sometimes indulged in was ''burning the 
water " for crawfish. For this purpose we procured a pair 
of grains, with a long staff like a harpoon, and, making torches 
with tarred rope twisted round a long pine stick, took the only 
boat on the beach, a small skiff, and with a torch-bearer in the 
bow, a steersman in the stern, and one man on each side with 
the grains, went off, on dark nights, to burn the water. This 
is fine sport. Keeping within a few rods of the shore, where 
the water is not more than three or four feet deep, with a clear, 
sandy bottom, the torches light everything up so that one could 
almost have seen a pin among the grains of sand. The craw- 
fish are an easy prey, and we used soon to get a load of them. 
The other fish were more difficult to catch, yet we frequently 
speared a number of them, of various kinds and sizes. The 
Pilgrim brought us a supply of fish-hooks, which we had never 
had before on the beach, and for several days we went down 
to the Point, and caught a quantity of cod and mackerel. On 
one of these expeditions, we saw a battle between two Sand- 
wich Islanders and a shark. "Johnny" had been playing 
about our boat for some time, driving away the fish, and show- 
ing his teeth at our bait, when we missed him, and in a few 
minutes heard a great shouting between two Kanakas who 
were fishing on the rock opposite to us : " E hana hana make 
i ka ia nui ! " " E pii mai Aikane ! " etc. ; and saw them pulling 
away on a stout line, and "Johnny Shark" floundering at the 
other end. The line soon broke ; but the Kanakas would not 
let him off so easily, and sprang directly into the water after 
him. Now came the tug of war. Before he could get into 
deep water, one of them seized him by the tail, and ran up 
with him upon the beach ; but Johnny twisted round, and 



OCCUPATION ON THE BEACH 1/9 

turning his head under his body, and showing his teeth in the 
vicinity of the Kanaka's hand, made him let go and spring out 
of the way. The shark now turned tail and made the best of 
his way, by flapping and floundering, toward deep water ; but 
here again, before he was fairly oif, the other Kanaka seized 
him by the tail, and made a spring toward the beach, his com- 
panion at the same time paying away upon him with stones 
and a large stick. As soon, however, as the shark could turn, 
the man was obliged to let go his hold ; but the instant he 
made toward deep water, they were both behind him, watch- 
ing their chance to seize him. In this way the battle went 
on for some time, the shark, in a rage, splashing and twisting 
about, and the Kanakas, in high excitement, yelling at the top 
of their voices. But the shark at last got off, carrying away 
a hook and line, and not a few severe bruises. 



CHAPTER XXI 

WE kept up a constant connection with the Presidio, 
and by the close of the summer I had added much 
to my vocabulary, beside having made the acquaint- 
ance of nearly everybody in the place, and acquired some 
knowledge of the character and habits of the people, as well 
as of the institutions under which they live. 

California was discovered in 1534 by Ximenes, or in 1536 
by Cortes, I can not settle which, and was subsequently visited 
by many other adventurers, as well as commissioned voyagers 
of the Spanish crown. It was found to be inhabited by 
numerous tribes of Indians, and to be in many parts extremely 
fertile ; to which, of course, were added rumours of gold mines, 
pearl fishery, etc. No sooner was the importance of the 
country known, than the Jesuits obtained leave to establish 
themselves in it, to Christianize and enlighten the Indians. 
They established missions in various parts of the country 
toward the close of the seventeenth century, and. collected 
the natives about them, baptizing them into the church, and 
teaching them the arts of civilized life. To protect the Jesuits 
in their missions, and at the same time to support the power 
of the crown over the civilized Indians, two forts were erected 
and garrisoned, — one at San Diego, and the other at Monterey. 
These were called Presidios, and divided the command of the 
whole country between them. Presidios have since been 
established at Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and other places, 
dividing the country into large districts, each with its Presidio, 
and governed by a commandante. The soldiers, for the most 
part, married civilized Indians ; and thus, in the vicinity of 
each Presidio, sprung up, gradually, small towns. In the 
course of time, vessels began to come into the ports to trade 

180 



CALIFORNIA AND ITS INHABITANTS l8l 

with the missions and receive hides in return ; and thus began 
the great trade of CaHfornia. Nearly all the cattle in the 
country belonged to the missions, and they employed their 
Indians, who became, in fact, their serfs, in tending their vast 
herds. In the year 1793, when Vancouver visited San Diego, 
the missions had obtained great wealth and power, and are 
accused of having depreciated the country with the sovereign, 
that they might be allowed to retain their possessions. On 
the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish dominions, the 
missions passed into the hands of the Franciscans, though 
without any essential change in their management. Ever 
since the independence of Mexico, the missions had been 
going down ; until, at last, a law was passed, stripping them 
of all their possessions, and confining the priests to their 
spiritual duties, at the same time declaring all the Indians free 
and independent Rancheros. The change in the condition of 
the Indians was, as may be supposed, only nominal ; they are 
virtually serfs, as much as they ever were. But in the mis- 
sions the change was complete. The priests have now no 
power, except in their religious character, and the great pos- 
sessions of the missions are given over to be preyed upon by 
the harpies of the civil power, who are sent there in the 
capacity of administradores, to settle up the concerns ; and 
who usually end, in a few years, by making themselves for- 
tunes, and leaving their stewardships worse than they found 
them. The dynasty of the priests was much more acceptable 
to the people of the country, and, indeed, to every one con- 
cerned with the country, by trade or otherwise, than that of 
the administradores. The priests were connected perma- 
nently to one mission, and felt the necessity of keeping up its 
credit. Accordingly the debts of the missions were regularly 
paid, and the people were, in the main, well treated, and at- 
tached to those who had spent their whole lives among them. 
But the administradores are strangers sent from Mexico, hav- 
ing no interest in the country ; not identified in any way with 
their charge, and, for the most part, men of desperate for- 



1 82 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

tunes, — broken-down politicians and soldiers, — whose only 
object is to retrieve their condition in as short a time as pos- 
sible. The change had been made but a few years before our 
arrival upon the coast, yet, in that short time, the trade was 
much diminished, credit impaired, and the venerable missions 
were going rapidly to decay. 

The external political arrangements remain the same. 
There are four or more Presidios, having under their pro- 
tection the various missions, and the pueblos, which are towns 
formed by the civil power and containing no mission or Pre- 
sidio. The most northerly Presidio is San Francisco, the next 
Monterey, the next Santa Barbara, including the mission of 
the same, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Buenaventura, which 
is said to be the best mission in the whole country, having 
fertile soil and rich vineyards. The last, and the most 
southerly, is San Diego, including the mission of the same, 
San Juan Capistrano, the Pueblo de los Angeles, the largest 
town in California, with the neighbouring mission of San 
Gabriel. The priests, in spiritual matters, are subject to the 
Archbishop of Mexico, and in temporal matters to the gov- 
ernor-general, who is the great civil and military head of the 
country. 

The government of the country is an arbitrary democracy, 
having no common law, and nothing that we should call a 
judiciary. Their only laws are made and unmade at the 
caprice of the legislature, and are as variable as the legis- 
lature itself. They pass through the form of sending repre- 
sentatives to the congress at Mexico, but as it takes several 
months to go and return, and there is very little communica- 
tion between the capital and this distant province, a member 
usually stays there as permanent member, knowing very well 
that there will be revolutions at home before he can write and 
receive an answer ; and if another member should be sent, he 
has only to challenge him, and decide the contested election 
in that way. 

Revolutions are matters of frequent occurrence in Call- 



CALIFORNIA AND ITS INHABITANTS 1 83 

fornia. They are got up by men who are at the foot of the 
ladder and in desperate circumstances, just as a new poHtical 
organization may be started by such men in our own country. 
The only object, of course, is the loaves and the fishes ; and 
instead of caucusing, paragraphing, libelling, feasting, promis- 
ing, and lying, they take muskets and bayonets, and seizing 
upon the Presidio and custom-house, divide the spoils, and de- 
clare a new dynasty. As for justice, they know little law but 
will and fear, A Yankee, who had been naturalized, and l)e- 
come a Catholic, and had married in the country, was sitting 
in his house at the Pueblo de los Angeles, with his wife and 
children, when a Mexican, with whom he had had a difficulty, 
entered the house, and stabbed him to the heart before them 
all. The murderer was seized by some Yankees who had 
settled there, and kept in confinement until a statement of 
the whole affair could be sent to the governor-general. The 
governor-general refused to do anything about it, and the 
countrymen of the murdered man, seeing no prospect of jus- 
tice being administered, gave notice that, if nothing was done, 
they should try the man themselves. It chanced that, at this 
time, there was a company of some thirty or forty trappers 
and hunters from the western States, with their rifles, who 
had made their headquarters at the Pueblo; and these, to- 
gether with the Americans and Englishmen in the place, who 
were between twenty and thirty in number, took possession 
of the town, and, waiting a reasonable time, proceeded to try 
the man according to the forms in their own country. A judge 
and jury were appointed, and he was tried, convicted, sentenced 
to be shot, and carried out before the town blindfolded. The 
names of all the men were then put into a hat, and each one 
pledging himself to perform his duty, twelve names were 
drawn out, and the men took their stations with their rifles, 
and, firing at the word, laid him dead. He was decently 
buried, and the place was restored quietly to the proper au- 
thorities. A general, with titles enough for an hidalgo, was 
at San Gabriel, and issued a proclamation as long as the fore- 



1 84 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

top-bowline, threatening destruction to the rebels, but never 
stirred from his fort ; for forty Kentucky hunters, with their 
rifles, and a dozen of Yankees and Englishmen, were a match 
for a whole regiment of hungry, drawling, lazy half-breeds. 
This affair happened while we were at San Pedro (the port of 
the Pueblo), and we had the particulars from those who were 
on the spot. A few months afterwards, another man was 
murdered on the high-road between the Pueblo and San Luis 
Rey by his own wife and a man with whom she ran off. The 
foreigners pursued and shot them both, according to one story. 
According to another version, nothing was done about it, as 
the parties were natives, and a man whom I frequently saw 
in San Diego was pointed out as the murderer. Perhaps they 
were two cases, but had got mixed. 

When a crime has been committed by Indians, justice, or 
rather vengeance, is not so tardy. One Sunday afternoon, 
while I was at San Diego, an Indian was sitting on his horse, 
when another, with whom he had had some difficulty, came 
up to him, drew a lotig knife, and plunged it directly into the 
horse's heart. The Indian sprang from his fallen horse, drew 
out the knife, and plunged it into the other Indian's breast, 
over his shoulder, and laid him dead. The fellow was seized 
at once, clapped into the calabozo, and kept there until an 
answer could be received from Monterey. A few weeks after- 
wards I saw the poor wretch, sitting on the bare ground, in 
front of the calabozo, with his feet chained to a stake, and 
handcuffs about his wrists. I knew there was very little hope 
for him. Although the deed was done in hot blood, the horse 
on which he was sitting being his own, and a favourite with 
him, yet he was an Indian, and that was enough. In about a 
week after I saw him, I heard that he had been shot. These 
few instances will serve to give one a notion of the distribution 
of justice in California. 

In their domestic relations, these people are not better 
than in their public. The men are thriftless, proud, extrava- 
gant, and very much given to gaming; and the women have 



CALIFORNIA AND ITS INHABITANTS 1 85 

but little education, and a good deal of beauty, and their 
morality, of course, is none of the best ; yet the instances of 
infidelity are much less frequent than one would at first sup- 
pose. In fact, one vice is set over against another ; and thus 
something like a balance is obtained. If the women have but 
little virtue, the jealousy of their husbands is extreme, and 
their revenge deadly and almost certain. A few inches of 
cold steel has been the punishment of many an unwary man, 
who has been guilty, perhaps, of nothing more than indiscre- 
tion. The difficulties of the attempt are numerous, and the 
consequences of discovery fatal, in the better classes. With 
the unmarried women, too, great watchfulness is used. The 
main object of the parents is to marry their daughters well, and 
to this a fair name is necessary. The sharp eyes of the duena, 
and the ready weapons of a father or brother, are a protection 
which the characters of most of them — -men and women — 
render by no means useless ; for the very men who would lay 
down their lives to avenge the dishonour of their own family 
would risk the same lives to complete the dishonour of another. 

Of the poor Indians very little care is taken. The priests, 
indeed, at the missions, are said to keep them very strictly, 
and some rules are usually made by the alcaldes to punish 
their misconduct ; yet it all amounts to but little. Indeed, to 
show the entire want of any sense of morality or domestic duty 
among them, I have frequently known an Indian to bring his 
wife, to whom he was lawfully married in the church, down 
to the beach, and carry her back again, dividing with her the 
money which she had got from the sailors. If any of the girls 
were discovered by the alcalde to be open evil livers, they were 
whipped, and kept at work sweeping the square of the Presidio, 
and carrying mud and bricks for the buildings ; yet a few 
reals would generally buy them off. Intemperance, too, is a 
common vice among the Indians. The Mexicans, on the con- 
trary, are abstemious, and I do not remember ever having seen 
a Mexican intoxicated. 

Such are the people who inhabit a country embracing four 



1 86 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

or five hundred miles of sea-coast, with several good harbours ; 
with fine forests in the north ; the waters filled with fish, and 
the plains covered with thousands of herds of cattle ; blessed 
with a climate than which there can be no better in the world ; 
free from all manner of diseases, whether epidemic or endemic ; 
and with a soil in which corn yields from seventy to eighty- 
fold. In the hands of an enterprising people, what a country 
this might be ! we are ready to say. Yet how long would a 
people remain so, in such a country.? The Americans (as 
those from the United States are called) and Englishmen, 
who are fast filling up the principal towns, and getting the 
trade into their hands, are indeed more industrious and effec- 
tive than the Mexicans ; yet their children are brought up 
Mexicans in most respects, and if the " California fever" (lazi- 
ness) spares the first generation, it is likely to attack the 
second. 



CHAPTER XXII 

SATURDAY, July i8th. This day sailed the Mexican 
hermaphrodite brig Fazio, for San Bias and Mazatlan. 
This was the brig which was driven ashore at San Pedro 
in a southeaster, and had been lying at San Diego to repair 
and take in her cargo. The owner of her had had a good 
deal of difficulty with the government about the duties, etc., 
and her sailing had been delayed for several weeks ; but every- 
thing having been arranged, she got under way with a light 
breeze, and was floating out of the harbour, when two horsemen 
came dashing down to the beach at full speed, and tried to find 
a boat to put off after her ; but there being none then at hand, 
they offered a handful of silver to any Kanaka who would swim 
off and take a letter on board. One of the Kanakas, an active, 
well-made young fellow, instantly threw off everything but his 
duck trousers, and, putting the letter into his hat, swam off, 
after the vessel. Fortunately the wind was very light, and 
the vessel was going slowly, so that, although she was nearly 
a mile off when he started, he gained on her rapidly. He went 
through the water leaving a wake like a small steamboat. I 
certainly never saw such swimming before. They saw him 
coming from the deck, but did not heave-to, suspecting the 
nature of his errand ; yet, the wind continuing light, he swam 
alongside, and got on board, and delivered his letter. The 
captain read the letter, told the Kanaka there was no answer, 
and, giving him a glass of brandy, left him to jump overboard 
and find the best of his way to the shore. The Kanaka swam 
in for the nearest point of land, and in about an hour made his 
appearance at the hide-house. He did not seem at all fatigued, 
had made three or four dollars, got a glass of brandy, and was 
in high spirits. The brig kept on her course, and the govern- 

187 



1 88 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ment officers, who had come down to forbid her saiHng, went 
back, each with something very Hke a flea in his ear, having 
depended upon extorting a httle more money from the owner. 
It was now nearly three months since the Alert arrived at 
Santa Barbara, and we began to expect her daily. About half 
a mile behind the hide-house was a high hill, and every after- 
noon, as soon as we had done our work, some one of us walked 
up to see if there was a sail in sight, coming down before the 
regular trades. Day after day we went up the hill, and came 
back disappointed. I was anxious for her arrival, for I had 
been told by letter, that the owners in Boston, at the request 
of my friends, had written to Captain Thompson to take me 
on board the Alert, in case she returned to the United States 
before the Pilgrim ; and I, of course, wished to know whether 
the order had been received, and what was the destination of 
the ship. One year, more or less, might be of small conse- 
quence to others, but it was everything to me. It was now 
just a year since we sailed from Boston, and, at the shortest, 
no vessel could expect to get away under eight or nine 
months, which would make our absence two years in all. 
This would be pretty long, but would not be fatal. It would 
not necessarily be decisive of my future life. But one year 
more might settle the matter. I might be a sailor for life ; 
and although I had pretty well made up my mind to it before 
I had my letters from home, yet, as soon as an opportunity 
was held out to me of returning, and the prospect of another 
kind of life was opened to me, my anxiety to return, and, at 
least, to have the chance of deciding upon my course for my- 
self, was beyond measure. Beside that, I wished to be "equal 
to either fortune," and to qualify myself for an officer's berth, 
and a hide-house was no place to learn seamanship in. I had 
become experienced in hide-curing, and everything went on 
smoothly, and I had many opportunities of becoming ac- 
quainted with the people, and much leisure for reading and 
studying navigation ; yet practical seamanship could only be 
got on board ship, therefore I determined to ask to be taken 



LIFE ON THE BEACH 1 89 

on board the ship when she arrived. By the first of August 
we finished curing all our hides, stored them away, cleaned 
out our vats (in which latter work we spent two days, up to 
our knees in mud and the sediments of six months' hide- 
curing, in a stench which would drive a donkey from his 
breakfast), and got all in readiness for the arrival of the ship, 
and had another leisure interval of three or four weeks, I 
spent these, as usual, in reading, writing, studying, making 
and mending my clothes, and getting my wardrobe in com- 
plete readiness in case I should go on board the ship ; and in 
fishing, ranging the woods with the dogs, and in occasional 
visits to the Presidio and Mission. A good deal of my time 
was passed in taking care of a little puppy, which I had 
selected from thirty-six that were born within three days of 
one another at our house. He was a fine, promising pup, with 
four white paws, and all the rest of his body of a dark brown, 
I built a little kennel for him, and kept him fastened there, 
away from the other dogs, feeding and disciplining him myself. 
In a few weeks I brought him into complete subjection, and 
he grew nicely, was much attached to me, and bade fair to be 
one of the leading dogs on the beach. I called him Bravo, 
and all I regretted at the thought of leaving the beach was 
parting from him and the Kanakas. 

Day after day we went up the hill, but no ship was to be 
seen, and we began to form all sorts of conjectures as to her 
whereabouts ; and the theme of every evening's conversation 
at the different houses, and in our afternoon's paseo upon the 
beach, was the ship, — where she could be, had she been to 
San Francisco, how many hides she would bring, etc. 

Tuesday, August 2§th. This morning the officer in charge 
of our house went off beyond the point a-fishing, in a small 
canoe, with two Kanakas ; and we were sitting quietly in our 
room at the hide-house, when, just before noon, we heard a 
complete yell of " Sail ho ! " breaking out from all parts of the 
beach at once, — from the Kanakas' oven to the Rosa's hide- 
house. In an instant every one was out of his house, and 



190 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

there was a tall, gallant ship, with royals and skysails set, 
bending over before the strong afternoon breeze, and coming 
rapidly round the point. Her yards were braced sharp up ; 
every sail was set, and drew well ; the stars and stripes were 
flying from her mizzen-peak, and, having the tide in her favour, 
she came up like a race-horse. It was nearly six months 
since a new vessel had entered San Diego, and, of course, 
every one was wide awake. She certainly made a fine appear- 
ance. Her light sails were taken in, as she passed the low, 
sandy tongue of land, and clewing up her head sails, she 
rounded handsomely to under her mizzen topsail, and let go 
her anchor at about a cable's length from the shore. In a 
few minutes the topsail yards were manned, and all three of the 
topsails furled at once. From the fore top-gallant yard, the 
men slid down the stay to furl the jib, and from the mizzen 
top-gallant yard, by the stay, into the main top, and thence to 
the yard ; and the men on the topsail yards came down the 
lifts to the yard-arms of the courses. The sails were furled 
with great care, the bunts triced up by jiggers, and the jibs 
stowed in cloth. The royal-yards were then struck, tackles 
got upon the yard-arms and the stay, the long-boat hoisted 
out, a large anchor carried astern, and the ship moored. This 
was the Alert. 

The gig was lowered away from the quarter, and a boat's 
crew of fine lads, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, 
pulled the captain ashore. The gig was a light whale-boat, 
handsomely painted, and fitted up with cushions and tiller- 
ropes in the stern sheets. We immediately attacked the boat's 
crew, and got very thick with them in a few minutes. We 
had much to ask about Boston, their passage out, etc., and 
they were very curious to know about the kind of life we were 
leading upon the beach. One of them offered to exchange 
with me, which was just what I wanted, and we had only to 
get the permission of the captain. 

After dinner the crew began discharging their hides, and, 
as we had nothing to do at the hide-houses, we were ordered 



THE ALERT 191 

aboard to help them. I had now my first opportunity of see- 
ing the ship which I hoped was to be my home for the next 
year. She looked as well on board as she did from without. 
Her decks were wide and roomy (there being no poop, or 
house on deck, which disfigures the after-part of most of our 
vessels), flush fore and aft, and as white as flax, which the crew 
told us was from constant use of holystones. There was no 
foolish gilding and gingerbread work, to take the eye of lands- 
men and passengers, but everything was " ship-shape." There 
was no rust, no dirt, no rigging hanging slack, no fag-ends of 
ropes and " Irish pendants " aloft, and the yards were squared 
*'to a T " by lifts and braces. The mate was a hearty fellow, 
with a roaring voice, and always wide awake. He was '^ a man, 
every inch of him," as the sailors said ; and though " a bit of 
a horse," and "a hard customer," yet he was generally liked 
by the crew. There was also a second and third mate, a car- 
penter, sailmaker, steward, and cook, and twelve hands before 
the mast. She had on board seven thousand hides, which she 
had collected at the windward, and also horns and tallow. All 
these we began discharging from both gangways at once into 
the two boats, the second mate having charge of the launch, 
and the third mate of the pinnace. For several days we were 
employed in this way, until all the hides were taken out, when 
the crew began taking in ballast, and we returned to our old 
work, hide-curing. 

Saturday, August 2 ^th. Arrived, brig Catalina, from the 
windward. 

Sunday, August joth. This was the first Sunday that the 
Alert's crew had been in San Diego, and of course they were 
all for going up to see the town. The Indians came down 
early, with horses to let for the day, and those of the crew 
who could obtain liberty went off to the Presidio and Mission, 
and did not return until night. I had seen enough of San 
Diego, and went on board and spent the day with some of the 
crew, whom I found quietly at work in the forecastle, either 
mending and washing their clothes, or reading and writing. 



192 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

They told me that the ship stopped at Callao on the passage 
out, and lay there three weeks. She had a passage of a little 
over eighty days from Boston to Callao, which is one of the 
shortest on record. There they left the Brandywine frigate, 
and some smaller American ships of war, and the English 
frigate Blonde, and a French seventy-four. From Callao they 
came directly to California, and had visited every port on the 
coast, including San Francisco. The forecastle in which they 
lived was large, tolerably well lighted by bull's-eyes, and, being 
kept perfectly clean, had quite a comfortable appearance ; at 
least, it was far better than the little black, dirty hole in which I 
had lived so many months on board the Pilgrim. By the regula- 
tions of the ship, the forecastle was cleaned out every morning ; 
and the crew, being very neat, kept it clean by some regula- 
tions of their own, such as having a large spit-box always under 
the steps and between the bits, and obliging every man to 
hang up his wet clothes, etc. In addition to this, it was holy- 
stoned every Saturday morning. In the after-part of the ship 
was a handsome cabin, a dining-room, and a trade-room, fitted 
out with shelves, and furnished with all sorts of goods. Be- 
tween these and the forecastle was the "between-decks," as 
high as the gun-deck of a frigate, being six feet and a half, 
under the beams. These between-decks were holystoned 
regularly, and kept in the most perfect order ; the carpenter's 
bench and tools being in one part, the sail-maker's in another, 
and boatswain's locker, with the spare rigging, in a third. A 
part of the crew slept here, in hammocks swung fore and aft 
from the beams, and triced up every morning. The sides of 
the between-decks were clapboarded, the knees and stanchions 
of iron, and the latter made to unship. The crew said she was 
as tight as a drum, and a fine sea boat, her only fault being 
— that of most fast ships — that she was wet forward. When 
she was going, as she sometimes would, eight or nine knots 
on a wind, there would not be a dry spot forward of the gang- 
way. The men told great stories of her sailing, and had entire 
confidence in her as a " lucky ship." She was seven years old. 



THE ALERT 193 

had always been in the Canton trade, had never met with an 
accident of any consequence, nor made a passage that was not 
shorter than the average. The third mate, a young man about 
eighteen years of age, nephew of one of the owners, had been 
in the ship from a small boy, and " believed in the ship " ; and 
the chief mate thought as much of her as he would of a wife 
and family. 

The ship lay about a week longer in port, when, having 
discharged her cargo and taken in ballast, she prepared to get 
under way. I now made my application to the captain to go 
on board. He told me that I could go home in the ship when 
she sailed (which I knew before) ; and, finding that I wished 
to be on board while she was on the coast, said he had no ob- 
jection, if I could find one of my own age to exchange with 
me for the time. This I easily accomplished, for they were 
glad to change the scene by a few months on shore, and, more- 
over, escape the winter and the southeasters ; and I went on 
board the next day, with my chest and hammock, and found 
myself once more afloat. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

TUESDAY, September 8th, This was my first day's duty 
on board the ship ; and though a sailor's life is a sailor's 
life wherever it may be, yet I found everything very 
different here from the customs of the brig Pilgrim. After all 
hands were called at daybreak, three minutes and a half were 
allowed for the men to dress and come on deck, and if any were 
longer than that, they were sure to be overhauled by the mate, 
who was always on deck, and making himself heard all over the 
ship. The head-pump was then rigged, and the decks washed 
down by the second and third mates ; the chief mate walking 
the quarter-deck, and keeping a general supervision, but not 
deigning to touch a bucket or a brush. Inside and out, fore 
and aft, upper deck and between-decks, steerage and forecastle, 
rail, bulwarks, and water-ways, were washed, scrubbed, and 
scraped with brooms and canvas, and the decks were wet and 
sanded all over, and then holystoned. The holystone is a large, 
soft stone, smooth on the bottom, with long ropes attached to 
each end, by which the crew keep it sliding fore and aft over 
the wet sanded decks. Smaller hand-stones, which the sailors 
call " prayer-books," are used to scrub in among the crevices 
and narrow places, where the large holystone will not go. An 
hour or two we were kept at this work, when the head-pump 
was manned, and all the sand washed off the decks and sides. 
Then came swabs and squilgees ; and, after the decks were 
dry, each one went to his particular morning job. There 
were five boats belonging to the ship, — launch, pinnace, jolly- 
boat, larboard quarter-boat, and gig, — each of which had a 
coxswain, who had charge of it, and was answerable for the 
order and cleanness of it. The rest of the cleaning was divided 
among the crew ; one having the brass and composition work 

194 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES IQS 

about the capstan ; another the bell, which was of brass, and 
kept as bright as a gilt button ; a third, the harness-cask ; an- 
other, the man-rope stanchions ; others, the steps of the fore- 
castle and hatchways, which were hauled up and holystoned. 
Each of these jobs must be finished before breakfast ; and in 
the mean time the rest of the crew filled the scuttled-butt, 
and the cook scraped his kids (wooden tubs out of which 
sailors eat), and polished the hoops, and placed them before 
the galley to await inspection. When the decks were dry, the 
lord paramount made his appearance on the quarter-deck, and 
took a few turns, eight bells were struck, and all hands went 
to breakfast. Half an hour was allowed for breakfast, when 
all hands were called again ; the kids, pots, bread-bags, etc., 
stowed away ; and, this morning, preparations were made for 
getting under way. We paid out on the chain by which we 
swung, hove in on the other, catted the anchor, and hove short 
on the first. This work was done in shorter time than was 
usual on board the brig ; for though everything was more than 
twice as large and heavy, the cat-block being as much as a 
man could lift, and the chain as large as three of the Pilgrim's, 
yet there was a plenty of room to move about in, more dis- 
cipline and system, more men, and more good-will. Each 
seemed ambitious to do his best. Officers and men knew 
their duty, and all went well. As soon as she was hove short, 
the mate, on the forecastle, gave the order to loose the sails ; 
and, in an instant all sprung into the rigging, up the shrouds, 
and out on the yards, scrambling by one another, — the first 
up, the best fellow, — cast off the yard-arm gaskets and bunt 
gaskets, and one man remained on each yard, holding the bunt 
jigger with a turn round the tye, all ready to let go, while the 
rest laid down to man the sheets and halyards. The mate 
then hailed the yards — " All ready forward .? " — " All ready 
the cross-jack yards.?" etc. ; and, '*Aye, aye, sir!" being re- 
turned from each, the word was given to let go ; and, in the 
twinkling of an eye, the ship, which had shown nothing but 
her bare yards, was covered with her loose canvas, from the 



196 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

royal-mast-heads to the decks. All then came down, except 
one man in each top, to overhaul the rigging, and the top-sails 
were hoisted and sheeted home, the three yards going to the 
mast-head at once, the larboard watch hoisting the fore, the 
starboard watch the main, and five light hands (of whom I was 
one), picked from the two watches, the mizzen. The yards 
were then trimmed, the anchor weighed, the cat-block hooked 
on, the fall stretched out, manned by "all hands and the cook," 
and the anchor brought to the head with " cheerly, men ! " in 
full chorus. The ship being now under way, the light sails 
were set, one after another, and she was under full sail before 
she had passed the sandy point. The fore royal, which fell to 
my lot (as I was in the mate's watch), was more than twice as 
large as that of the Pilgrim, and, though I could handle the 
brig's easily, I found my hands full with this, especially as 
there were no jacks to the ship, everything being for neatness, 
and nothing left for Jack to hold on by but his " eyelids." 

As soon as we were beyond the point, and all sail out, the 
order was given, " Go below, the watch ! " and the crew said 
that, ever since they had been on the coast, they had had 
" watch and watch " while going from port to port ; and, in 
fact, all things showed that, though strict discipline was kept, 
and the utmost was required of every man in the way of his 
duty, yet, on the whole, there was good usage on board. Each 
one knew that he must be a man, and show himself such when 
at his duty, yet all were satisfied with the treatment ; and a 
contented crew, agreeing with one another, and finding no 
fault, was a contrast indeed with the small, hard-used, dis- 
satisfied, grumbling, desponding crew of the Pilgrim. 

It being the turn of our watch to go below, the men set 
themselves to work, mending their clothes, and doing other 
little things for themselves ; and I, having got my wardrobe 
in complete order at San Diego, had nothing to do but to read. 
I accordingly overhauled the chests of the crew, but found 
nothing that suited me exactly, until one of the men said he 
had a book which "told all about a great highwayman," at the 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 197 

bottom of his chest, and, producing it, I found, to my surprise 
and joy, that it was nothing else than Bulwer's Paul Clifford. 
I seized it immediately, and, going to my hammock, lay there, 
swinging and reading, until the watch below was out. The 
between-decks clear, the hatchways open, a cool breeze blow- 
ing through them, the ship under easy way, — everything was 
comfortable. I had just got well into the story when eight 
bells were struck, and we were all ordered to dinner. After 
dinner came our watch on deck for four hours, and at four 
o'clock I went below again, turned into my hammock and read 
until the dog watch. As lights were not allowed after eight 
o'clock, there was no reading in the night watch. Having 
light winds and calms, we were three days on the passage, 
and each watch below, during the daytime, I spent in the same 
manner, until I had finished my book. I shall never forget 
the enjoyment I derived from it. To come across anything 
with the slightest claims to literary merit was so unusual that 
this was a feast to me. The brilliancy of the book, the succes- 
sion of capital hits, and the lively and characteristic sketches, 
kept me in a constant state of pleasing sensations. It was far 
too good for a sailor. I could not expect such fine times to 
last long. 

While on deck, the regular work of the ship went on. The 
sailmaker and carpenter worked between decks, and the crew 
had their work to do upon the rigging, drawing yarns, making 
spun-yarn, etc., as usual in merchantmen. The night watches 
were much more pleasant than on board the Pilgrim. There, 
there were so few in a watch, that, one being at the wheel 
and another on the lookout, there was no one left to talk 
with ; but here we had seven in a watch, so that we had long 
yarns in abundance. After two or three night watches, I be- 
came well acquainted with the larboard watch. The sailmaker 
was the head man of the watch, and was generally considered 
the most experienced seaman on board. He was a thorough- 
bred old man-of-war' s-man, had been at sea twenty-two years, 
in all kinds of vessels, — men-of-war, privateers, slavers, and 



198 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

merchantmen, — everything except whalers, which a thorough 
man-of-war or merchant seaman looks down upon, and will 
always steer clear of if he can. He had, of course, been in 
most parts of the world, and was remarkable for drawing a 
long bow. His yarns frequently stretched through a watch, 
and kept all hands awake. They were amusing from their 
improbability, and, indeed, he never expected to be believed, 
but spun them merely for amusement ; and as he had some 
humour and a good supply of man-of-war slang and sailor's 
salt phrases, he always made fun. Next to him in age and 
experience, and, of course, in standing in the watch, was an 
Englishman named Harris, of whom I shall have more to say 
hereafter. Then came two or three Americans, who had 
been the common run of European and South American voy- 
ages, and one who had been in a "spouter," and, of course, 
had all the whaling stories to himself. Last of all was a 
broad-backed, thick-headed, Cape Cod ' boy, who had been in 
mackerel schooners, and was making his first voyage in a 
square-rigged vessel. He was born in Hingham, and of 
course was called "Bucket-maker." The other watch was 
composed of about the same number. A tall, fine-looking 
Frenchman, with coal-black whiskers and curly hair, a first- 
rate seaman, named John (one name is enough for a sailor), 
was the head man of the watch. Then came two Americans 
(one of whom had been a dissipated young man of some prop- 
erty and respectable connections, and was reduced to duck 
trousers and monthly wages), a German, an English lad named 
Ben, who belonged on the mizzen-topsail yard with me, and 
was a good sailor for his years, and two Boston boys just from 
the public schools. The carpenter sometimes mustered in the 
starboard watch, and was an old sea-dog, a Swede by birth, 
and accounted the best helmsman in the ship. This was our 
ship's company, beside cook and steward, who were blacks, 
three mates, and the captain. 

I Sailors call men from any part of the coast of Massachusetts south of Boston 
Cape Cod men. 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 199 

The second day out, the wind drew ahead, and we had to 
beat up the coast ; so that, in tacking ship, I could see the 
regulations of the vessel. Instead of going wherever was 
most convenient, and running from place to place, wherever 
work was to be done, each man had his station. A regular 
tacking and wearing bill was made out. The chief mate com- 
manded on the forecastle, and had charge of the head sails 
and the forward part of the ship. Two of the best men in the 
ship, the sailmaker from our watch, and John, the Frenchman, 
from the other, worked the forecastle. The third mate com- 
manded in the waist, and, with the carpenter and one man, 
worked the main tack and bowline ; the cook, ex officio, the 
fore sheet, and the steward the main. The second mate had 
charge of the after yards, and let go the lee fore and main 
braces. I was stationed at the weather cross-jack braces ; 
three other light hands at the lee ; one boy at the spanker- 
sheet and guy ; a man and a boy at the main topsail, top- 
gallant, and royal braces ; and all the rest of the crew — men 
and boys — tallied on to the main brace. Every one here 
knew his station, must be there when all hands were called to 
put the ship about, and was answerable for the ropes com- 
mitted to him. Each man's rope must be let go and hauled 
in at the order, properly made fast, and neatly coiled away 
when the ship was about. As soon as all hands are at their 
stations, the captain, who stands on the weather side of the 
quarter-deck, makes a sign to the man at the wheel to put it 
down, and calls out " Helm 's a lee' ! " " Helm 's a lee' ! " 
answers the mate on the forecastle, and the head sheets are 
let go. " Raise tacks and sheets ! " says the captain ; " tacks 
and sheets ! " is passed forward, and the fore tack and main 
sheet are let go. The next thing is to haul taut for a swing. 
The weather cross-jack braces and the lee main braces are 
belayed together upon two pins, and ready to be let go, and 
the opposite braces hauled taut. " Main topsail haul ! " shouts 
the captain ; the braces are let go ; and if he has chosen his 
time well, the yards swing round like a top ; but if he is too 



200 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

late, or too soon, it is like drawing teeth. The after yards 
are then braced up and belayed, the main sheet hauled aft, the 
spanker eased over to leeward, and the men from the braces 
stand by the head yards. " Let go and haul ! " says the cap- 
tain ; the second mate lets go the weather fore braces, and 
the men haul in to leeward. The mate, on the forecastle, 
looks out for the head yards. " Well the fore topsail yard ! " 
"Top-gallant yard's well ! " " Royal yard too much ! Haul 
in to windward ! So ! well that ! " " Well all ! " Then the 
starboard watch board the main tack, and the larboard watch 
lay forward and board the fore tack and haul down the jib 
sheet, clapping a tackle upon it if it blows very fresh. The 
after yards are then trimmed, the captain generally looking 
out for them himself. *' Well the cross-jack,' yard ! " " Small 
pull the main top-gallant yard ! " " Well that ! " " Well the 
mizzen topsail yard ! " " Cross-jack yards all well ! " " Well 
all aft ! '* " Haul taut to windward ! " Everything being 
now trimmed and in order, each man coils up the rigging at his 
own station, and the order is given, " Go below the watch ! " 

During the last twenty-four hours of the passage, we beat 
off and on the land, making a tack about once in four hours, 
so that I had sufficient opportunity to observe the working of 
the ship ; and certainly it took no more men to brace about 
this ship's lower yards, which were more than fifty feet square, 
than it did those of the Pilgrim, which were not much more 
than half the size ; so much depends upon the manner in which 
the braces run, and the state of the blocks ; and Captain 
Wilson, of the Ayacucho, who was afterwards a passenger with 
us, upon a trip to windward, said he had no doubt that our 
ship worked two men lighter than his brig. This light work- 
ing of the ship was owing to the attention and seamanship of 
Captain Faucon. He had reeved anew nearly all the running 
rigging of the ship, getting rid of useless blocks, putting single 
blocks for double wherever he could, using pendent blocks, 
and adjusting the purchases scientifically. 

I Pronounced croj-ac 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 20I 

Friday y September nth. This morning, at four o'clock, 
went below, San Pedro point being about two leagues ahead, 
and the ship going on under studding-sails. In about an hour 
we were waked up by the hauling of the chain about decks, 
and in a few minutes "All hands ahoy ! " was called ; and we 
were all at work, hauling in and making up the studding-sails, 
overhauling the chain forward, and getting the anchors ready. 
"The Pilgrim is there at anchor," said some one, as we were 
running about decks ; and, taking a moment's look over the 
rail, I saw my old friend, deeply laden, lying at anchor inside 
of the kelp. In coming to anchor, as well as in tacking ship, 
each one had his station and duty. The light sails were 
clewed up and furled, the courses hauled up, and the jibs 
down ; then came the topsails in the buntlines, and the anchor 
let go. As soon as she was well at anchor, all hands lay aloft 
to furl the topsails ; and this, I soon found, was a great matter 
on board this ship ; for every sailor knows that a vessel is 
judged of, a good deal, by the furl of her sails. The third 
mate, sailmaker, and the larboard watch, went upon the fore 
topsail yard ; the second mate, carpenter, and the starboard 
watch, upon the main ; and I, and the English lad, and the 
two Boston boys, and the young Cape Cod man, furled the 
mizzen topsail. This sail belonged to us altogether to reef 
and to furl, and not a man was allowed to come upon our yard. 
The mate took us under his special care, frequently making 
us furl the sail over three or four times, until we got the bunt 
up to a perfect cone, and the whole sail without a wrinkle. 
As soon as each sail was hauled up and the bunt made, the 
jigger was bent on to the slack of the buntlines, and the bunt 
triced up, on deck. The mate then took his place between 
the knight-heads to "twig" the fore, on the windlass to twig 
the main, and at the foot of the mainmast for the mizzen ; 
and if anything was wrong, — too much bunt on one side, 
clews too taut or too slack, or any sail abaft the yard, — the 
whole must be dropped again. When all was right, the bunts 
were triced well up, the yard-arm gaskets passed, so as not to 



202 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

leave a wrinkle forward of the yard — short gaskets, with turns 
close together. 

From the moment of letting go the anchor, when the cap- 
tain ceases his care of things, the chief mate is the great man. 
With a voice like a young lion, he was hallooing in all direc- 
tions, making everything fly, and, at the same time, doing 
everything well. He was quite a contrast to the worthy, 
quiet, unobtrusive mate of the Pilgrim, not a more estimable 
man, perhaps, but a far better mate of a vessel ; and the entire 
change in Captain Thompson's conduct, since he took com- 
mand of the ship, was owing, no doubt, in a great measure, to 
this fact. If the chief officer wants force, discipline slackens, 
everything gets out of joint, and the captain interferes con- 
tinually ; that makes a difficulty between them, which en- 
courages the crew, and the whole ends in a three-sided quarrel. 
But Mr. Brown (a Marblehead man) wanted no help from any- 
body, took everything into his own hands, and was more likely 
to encroach upon the authority of the master than to need any 
spurring. Captain Thompson gave his directions to the mate 
in private, and, except in coming to anchor, getting under way, 
tackling, reefing topsails, and other "all-hands- work," seldom 
appeared in person. This is the proper state of things ; and 
while this lasts, and there is a good understanding aft, every- 
thing will go on well. 

Having furled all the sails, the royal yards were next to be 
sent down. The English lad and myself sent down the main, 
which was larger than the Pilgrim's main top-gallant yard ; 
two more light hands the fore, and one boy the mizzen. This 
order we kept while on the coast, sending them up and down 
every time we came in and went out of port. They were all 
tripped and lowered together, the main on the starboard side, 
and the fore and mizzen to port. No sooner was she all 
snug, than tackles were got up on the yards and stays, and 
the long-boat and pinnace hove out. The swinging booms 
were then guyed out, and the boats made fast by geswarps, 
and everything in harbour style. After breakfast, the hatches 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 203 

were taken off, and everything got ready to receive hides from 
the Pilgrim. All day, boats were passing and repassing, until 
we had taken her hides from her, and left her in ballast trim. 
These hides made but little show in our hold, though they had 
loaded the Pilgrim down to the water's edge. This changing 
of the hides settled the question of the destination of the two 
vessels, which had been one of some speculation with us. We 
were to remain in the ward ports, while the Pilgrim was to 
sail, the next morning, for San Francisco. After we had 
knocked off work, and cleared up decks for the night, my 
friend Stimson came on board, and spent an hour with me in 
our berth between decks. The Pilgrim's crew envied me my 
place on board the ship, and seemed to think that I had got 
a little to windward of them, especially in the matter of going 
home first. Stimson was determined to go home in the Alert, 
by begging or buying. If Captain Thompson would not let 
him come on other terms, he would purchase an exchange with 
some one of the crew. The prospect of another year after 
the Alert should sail was rather "too much of the monkey." 
About seven o'clock the mate came down into the steerage in 
fine trim for fun, roused the boys out of the berth, turned up 
the carpenter with his fiddle, sent the steward with lights to 
put in the between-decks, and set all hands to dancing. The 
between-decks were high enough to allow of jumping, and be- 
ing clear, and white, from holystoning, made a good dancing- 
hall. Some of the Pilgrim's crew were in the forecastle, and 
they all turned-to and had a regular sailor's shuffle till eight 
bells. The Cape Cod boy could dance the true fisherman's 
jig, barefooted, knocking with his heels, and slapping the 
decks with his bare feet, in time with the music. This was 
a favorite amusement of the mate's, who used to stand at the 
steerage door, looking on, and if the boys would not dance, 
hazed them round with a rope's end, much to the entertain- 
ment of the men. 

The next morning, according to the orders of the agent, 
the Pilgrim set sail for the windward, to be gone three or four 



204 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

months. She got under way with no fuss, and came so near 
us as to throw a letter on board, Captain Faucon standing at 
the tiller himself, and steering her as he would a mackerel 
smack. When Captain Thompson was in command of the 
Pilgrim, there was as much preparation and ceremony as there 
would be in getting a seventy-four under way. Captain 
Faucon was a sailor, every inch of him. He knew what a 
ship was, and was as much at home in one as a cobbler in his 
stall. I wanted no better proof of this than the opinion of 
the ship's crew, for they had been six months under his com- 
mand, and knew him thoroughly, and if sailors allow their 
captain to be a good seaman, you may be sure he is one, for 
that is a thing they are not usually ready to admit. To find 
fault with the seamanship of the captain is a crew's reserved 
store for grumbling. 

After the Pilgrim left us, we lay three weeks at San Pedro, 
from the nth of September until the 2d of October, engaged 
in the usual port duties of landing cargo, taking off hides, etc. 
These duties were much easier, and went on much more agree- 
ably, than on board the Pilgrim. '' The more the merrier " is 
the sailor's maxim, and, by a division of labour, a boat's crew 
of a dozen could take off all the hides brought down in a day 
without much trouble ; and on shore, as well as on board, a 
good-will, and no discontent or grumbling, make everything go 
well. The officer, too, who usually went with us, the third 
mate, was a pleasant young fellow, and made no unnecessary 
trouble ; so that we generally had a sociable time, and were 
glad to be relieved from the restraint of the ship. While here 
I often thought of the miserable, gloomy weeks we had spent 
in this dull place, in the brig ; discontent and hard usage on 
board, and four hands to do all the work on shore. Give me a 
big ship. There is more room, better outfit, better regulation, 
more life, and more company. Another thing was better ar- 
ranged here : we had a regular gig's crew. A light whale- 
boat, handsomely painted, and fitted out with stern seats, yoke 
and tiller-ropes, hung on the starboard quarter, and was used 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 205 

as the gig. The youngest lad in the ship, a Boston boy about 
fourteen years old, was coxswain of this boat, and had the 
entire charge of her, to keep her clean and have her in readi- 
ness to go and come at any hour. Four light hands, of about 
the same size and age, of whom I was one, formed her crew. 
Each had his oar and seat numbered, and we were obliged to 
be in our places, have our oars scraped white, our tholepins in, 
and the fenders over the side. The bowman had charge of the 
boat-hook and painter, and the coxswain of the rudder, yoke, 
and stern-sheets. Our duty was to carry the captain and agent 
about, and passengers off and on, which last was no trifling 
duty, as the people on shore have no boats, and every pur- 
chaser from the boy who buys his pair of shoes, to the trader 
who buys his casks and bales, was to be brought off and taken 
ashore in our boat. Some days, when people were coming 
and going fast, we were in the boat, pulling off and on, all day 
long, with hardly time for our meals, making, as we lay nearly 
three miles off shore, from thirty to forty miles' rowing in a 
day. Still, we thought it the best berth in the ship ; for when 
the gig was employed, we had nothing to do with the cargo, 
except with small bundles which the passengers took with 
them, and no hides to carry. Besides, we had the opportunity 
of seeing everybody, making acquaintances, and hearing the 
news. Unless the captain or agent was in the boat, we had 
no officer with us, and often had fine times with the passengers, 
who were always willing to talk and joke with us. Frequently, 
too, we were obliged to wait several hours on shore, when we 
would haul the boat up on the beach, and, leaving one to watch 
her, go to the nearest house, or spend the time in strolling 
about the beach, picking up shells, or playing hop-scotch, and 
other games, on the hard sand. The others of the crew never 
left the ship, except for bringing heavy goods and taking off 
hides ; and though we were always in the water, the surf 
hardly leaving us a dry thread from morning till night, yet we 
were young, and the climate was good, and we thought it much 
better than the quiet, humdrum drag and pull on board ship. 



206 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

We made the acquaintance of nearly half California ; for be- 
sides carrying everybody in our boat, — men, women, and chil- 
dren, — all the messages, letters, and light packages went by 
us, and, being known by our dress, we found a ready reception 
everywhere. 

At San Pedro, we had none of this amusement, for, there 
being but one house in the place, there was nothing to see and 
no company. All the variety that I had was riding, once a 
week, to the nearest rancho,' to order a bullock down to the ship. 

The brig Catalina came in from San Diego, and, being bound 
to windward, we both got under way at the same time, for a trial 
of speed up to Santa Barbara, a distance of about eighty miles. 
We hove up and got under sail about eleven o'clock at night, 
with a light land-breeze, which died away toward morning, 
leaving us becalmed only a few miles from our anchoring- 
place. The Catalina, being a small vessel, of less than half 
our size, put out sweeps and got a boat ahead, and pulled out 
to sea during the night, so that she had the sea-breeze earlier 
and stronger than we did, and we had the mortification of see- 
ing her standing up the coast with a fine breeze, the sea all 
ruffled about her, while we were becalmed in-shore. When 
the sea-breeze died away, she was nearly out of sight ; and, 
toward the latter part of the afternoon, the regular northwest 
wind setting in fresh, we braced sharp upon it, took a pull at 
every sheet, tack, and halyard, and stood after her in fine 
style, our ship being very good upon a taut bowline. We had 
nearly five hours of splendid sailing, beating up to windward 
by long stretches in and off shore, and evidently gaining upon 
the Catalina at every tack. When this breeze left us, we were 
so near as to count the painted ports on her side. Fortunately, 
the wind died away when we were on our inward tack, and 
she on h^r outward, so we were in-shore, and caught the land- 
breeze first, which came off upon our quarter, about the middle 

I This was Sepulveda's rancho, where there was a fight, during our war with 
Mexico in 1846, between some United States troops and the Mexicans, under Don 
Andreas Pico. 



NEW SHIP AND SHIPMATES 20/ 

of the first watch. All hands were turned up, and we set all 
sail, to the skysails and the royal studding-sails ; and with 
these, we glided quietly through the water, leaving the Cata- 
lina, which could not spread so much canvas as we, gradually 
astern, and, by daylight, were off Santa Buenaventura, and 
our competitor nearly out of sight. The sea-breeze, however, 
favoured her again, while we were becalmed under the head- 
land, and labouring slowly along, and she was abreast of us by 
noon. Thus we continued, ahead, astern, and abreast of each 
other, alternately ; now far out at sea, and again close in under 
the shore. On the third morning we came into the great bay 
of Santa Barbara two hours behind the brig, and thus lost the 
bet ; though if the race had been to the point, we should have 
beaten her by five or six hours. This, however, settled the 
relative sailing of the vessels, for it was admitted that although 
she, being small and light, could gain upon us in very light 
winds, yet whenever there was breeze enough to set us a-going, 
we walked away from her like hauling in a line ; and, in beat- 
ing to windward, which is the best trial of a vessel, had much 
the advantage. 

Sunday y October ^th. This was the day of our arrival ; and, 
somehow or other, our captain seemed to manage, not only to 
sail, but to come into port, on a Sunday. The main reason 
for sailing on Sunday is not, as many people suppose, because 
it is thought a lucky day but because it is a leisure day. 
During the six days the crew are employed upon the cargo 
and other ship's works, and, Sunday being their only day of 
rest, whatever additional work can be thrown into it is so 
much gain to the owners. This is the reason of our coasters 
and packets generally sailing on Sunday. Thus it was with 
us nearly all the time we were on the coast, and many of our 
Sundays were lost entirely to us. The Catholics on shore do 
not, as a general thing, do regular trading or make journeys 
on Sunday, but the American has no national religion, and 
likes to show his independence of priestcraft by doing as he 
chooses on the Lord's Day, 



208 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Santa Barbara looked very much as it did when I left it 
five months before : the long sand beach, with the heavy- 
rollers, breaking upon it in a continual roar, and the little 
town, embedded on the plain, girt by its amphitheatre of 
mountains. Day after day the sun shone clear and bright 
upon the wide bay and the red roofs of the houses, everything 
being as still as death, the people hardly seeming to earn their 
sunlight. Daylight was thrown away upon them. We had a 
few visitors, and collected about a hundred hides, and every 
night, at sundown, the gig was sent ashore to wait for the 
captain, who spent his evenings in the town. We always took 
our monkey-jackets with us, and flint and steel, and made a 
fire on the beach with the driftwood and the bushes which we 
pulled from the neighbouring thickets, and lay down by it, on 
the sand. Sometimes we would stray up to the town, if the 
captain was likely to stay late, and pass the time at some of 
the houses, in which we were almost always well received by 
the inhabitants. Sometimes earlier and sometimes later, the 
captain came down ; when, after a good drenching in the surf, 
we went aboard, changed our clothes, and turned in for the 
night, — yet not for all the night, for there was the anchor 
watch to stand. 

This leads me to speak of my watchmate for nine months, 
— and, taking him all in all, the most remarkable man I had 
ever seen, — Tom Harris. An hour, every night, while lying 
in port, Harris and I had the deck to ourselves, and walking 
fore and aft, night after night, for months, I learned his char- 
acter and history, and more about foreign nations, the habits 
of different people, and especially the secrets of sailors' lives 
and hardships, and also of practical seamanship (in which he 
was abundantly capable of instructing me), than I could ever 
have learned elsewhere. His memory was perfect, seeming 
to form a regular chain, reaching from his earliest childhood 
up to the time I knew him, without a link wanting. His 
power of calculation, too, was extraordinary. I called myself 
pretty quick at figures, and had been through a course of 



MY WATCHMATE, TOM HARRIS 209 

mathematical studies ; but, working by my head, I was unable 
to keep within sight of this man, who had never been beyond 
his arithmetic. He carried in his head not only a log-book of 
the voyage, which was complete and accurate, and from which 
no one thought of appealing, but also an accurate registry of 
the cargo, knowing where each thing was stowed, and how 
many hides we took in at each port. 

One night he made a rough calculation of the number of 
hides that could be stowed in the lower hold, between the fore 
and main masts, taking the depth of hold and breadth of beam 
(for he knew the dimensions of every part of a ship before he 
had been long on board), and the average area and thickness 
of a hide ; and he came surprisingly near the number, as it 
afterwards turned out. The mate frequently came to him to 
know the capacity of different parts of the vessel, and he could 
tell the sailmaker very nearly the amount of canvas he would 
want for each sail in the ship ; for he knew the hoist of every 
n^ast, and spread of each sail, on the head and foot, in feet 
and inches. When we were at sea, he kept a running account, 
in his head, of the ship's way, — the number of knots and the 
courses ; and, if the courses did not vary much during the 
twenty-four hours, by taking the whole progress and allowing 
so many eighths southing or northing, to so many easting or 
westing, he would make up his reckoning just before the cap- 
tain took the sun at noon, and often came very near the mark. 
He had, in his chest, several volumes giving accounts of in- 
ventions in mechanics, which he read with great pleasure, and 
made himself master of. I doubt if he forgot anything that 
he read. The only thing in the way of poetry that he ever 
read was Falconer's Shipwreck, which he was charmed with, 
and pages of which he could repeat. He said he could recall 
the name of every sailor that had ever been his shipmate, and 
also of every vessel, captain, and officer, and the principal dates 
of each voyage ; and a sailor whom he afterwards fell in with, 
who had been in a ship with Harris nearly twelve years before, 
was much surprised at having Harris tell him things about 



210 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

himself which he had entirely forgotten. His facts, whether 
dates or events, no one thought of disputing ; and his opinions 
few of the sailors dared to oppose, for, right or wrong, he 
always had the best of the argument with them. His reason- 
ing powers were striking. I have had harder work main- 
taining an argument with him in a watch, even when I knew 
myself to be right, and he was only doubting, than I ever had 
before, not from his obstinacy, but from his acuteness. Give 
him only a little knowledge of his subject, and, among all the 
young men of my acquaintance at college, there is not one 
whom I had not rather meet in an argument than this man. 
I never answered a question from him, or advanced an opinion 
to him, without thinking more than once. With an iron 
memory, he seemed to have your whole past conversation at 
command, and if you said a thing now which ill agreed with 
something you had said months before, he was sure to have 
you on the hip. In fact, I felt, when with him, that I was 
with no common man. I had a positive respect for his powers 
of mind, and thought, often, that if half the pains had been 
spent upon his education which are thrown away yearly, in 
our colleges, he would have made his mark. Like many self- 
taught men of real merit, he overrated the value of a regular 
education ; and this I often told him, though I had profited by 
his error ; for he always treated me with respect, and often 
unnecessarily gave way to me, from an overestimate of my 
knowledge. For the intellectual capacities of all the rest of 
the crew, — captain and all, — he had a sovereign contempt. 
He was a far better sailor, and probably a better navigator, 
than the captain, and had more brains than all the after part 
of the ship put together. The sailors said, " Tom 's got a 
head as long as the bowsprit," and if anyone fell into an argu- 
ment with him, they would call out: "Ah, Jack! you had 
better drop that as you would a hot potato, for Tom will turn 
you inside out before you know it ! " 

I recollect his posing me once on the subject of the Corn 
Laws. I was called to stand my watch, and, coming on deck, 



MY WATCHMATE, TOM HARRIS 211 

found him there before me ; and we began, as usual, to walk 
fore and aft, in the waist. He talked about the Corn Laws ; 
asked me my opinion about them, which I gave him, and my 
reasons, my small stock of which I set forth to the best advan- 
tage, supposing his knowledge on the subject must be less than 
mine, if, indeed, he had any at all. When I had got through, 
he took the liberty of differing from me, and brought argu- 
ments and facts which were new to me, and to which I was 
unable to reply. I confessed that I knew almost nothing of 
the subject, and expressed my surprise at the extent of his in- 
formation. He said that, a number of years before, while at a 
boarding-house in Liverpool, he had fallen in with a pamphlet 
on the subject, and, as it contained calculations, had read it 
very carefully, and had ever since wished to find some one 
who could add to his stock of knowledge on the question. 
Although it was many years since he had seen the book, and 
it was a subject with which he had had no previous acquaint- 
ance, yet he had the chain of reasoning, founded upon prin- 
ciples of political economy, fully in his memory ; and his facts, 
so far as I could judge, were correct ; at least, he stated them 
with precision. The principles of the steam-engine, too, he 
was familiar with, having been several months on board a 
steamboat, and made himself master of its secrets. He knew 
every lunar star in both hemisplieres, and was a master of the 
quadrant and sextant. The men said he could take a meridian 
altitude of the sun from a tar bucket. Such was the man, 
who, at forty, was still a dog before the mast, at twelve dollars 
a month. The reason of this was to be found in his past life, 
as I had it, at different times, from himself. 

He was an Englishman, a native of Ilfracomb, in Devon- 
shire. His father was skipper of a small coaster from Bristol, 
and, dying, left him, when quite young, to the care of his 
mother, by whose exertions he received a common-school edu- 
cation, passing his winters at school and his summers in the 
coasting trade until his seventeenth year, when he left home 
to go upon foreign voyages. Of this mother he spoke with 



212 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the greatest respect, and said that she was a woman of a strong 
mind, and had an excellent system of education, which had 
made respectable men of his three brothers, and failed in him 
only from his own indomitable obstinacy. One thing he men- 
tioned, in which he said his mother differed from all other 
mothers that he had ever seen disciplining their children ; 
that was, that when he was out of humour and refused to 
eat, instead of putting his plate away, saying that his 
hunger would bring him to it in time, she would stand over 
him and oblige him to eat it, — every mouthful of it. It 
was no fault of hers that he was what I saw him ; and so 
great was his sense of gratitude for her efforts, though un- 
successful, that he determined, when the voyage should end, 
to embark for home with all the wages he shguld get, to 
spend with and for his mother, if perchance he should find 
her alive. 

After leaving home, he had spent nearly twenty years sail- 
ing upon all sorts of voyages, generally out of the ports of 
New York and Boston. Twenty years of vice ! Every sin 
that a sailor knows, he had gone to the bottom of. Several 
times, he had been hauled up in the hospitals, and as often 
the great strength of his constitution had brought him out 
again in health. Several times, too, from his acknowledged 
capacity, he had been promoted to the office of chief mate, 
and as often his conduct when in port, especially his drunken- 
ness, which neither fear nor ambition could induce him to 
abandon, put him back into the forecastle. One night, when 
giving me an account of his life, and lamenting the years of 
manhood he had thrown away, " There," said he, *' in the fore- 
castle, at the foot of those steps, a chest of old clothes, is the 
result of twenty-two years of hard labour and exposure — 
worked like a horse, and treated like a dog." As he had 
grown older, he began to feel the necessity of some provision 
for his later years, and came gradually to the conviction that 
rum had been his worst enemy. One night, in Havana a young 
shipmate of his was brought aboard drunk, with a dangerous 



MY WATCHMATE, TOM HARRIS 21 3 

gash in his head, and his money and new clothes stripped from 
him. Harris had been in hundreds of such scenes as these, 
but in his then state of mind it fixed his determination, and 
he resolved never to taste a drop of strong drink of any kind. 
He signed no pledge, and made no vow, but relied on his own 
strength of purpose. The first thing with him was a reason, 
and then a resolution, and the thing was done. The date of 
his resolution he knew, of course, to the very hour. It was 
three years before I became acquainted with him, and during 
all that time nothing stronger than cider or coffee had passed 
his lips. The sailors never thought of enticing Tom to take 
a glass, any more than they would of talking to the ship's com- 
pass. He was now a temperate man for life, and capable of 
filling any berth in a ship, and many a high station there is on 
shore which is held by a meaner man. 

He understood the management of a ship upon scientific 
principles, and could give the reason for hauling every rope ; 
and a long experience, added to careful observation at the 
time, gave him a knowledge of the expedients and resorts for 
times of hazard, for which I became much indebted to him, as 
he took the greatest pleasure in opening his stores of informa- 
tion to me, in return for what I was enabled to do for him. 
Stories of tyranny and hardship which had driven men to pi- 
racy ; of the incredible ignorance of masters and mates, and of 
horrid brutality to the sick, dead, and dying ; as well as of the 
secret knavery and impositions practised upon seamen by con- 
nivance of the owners, landlords, and officers, — all these he 
had, and I could not but believe them ; for he made the impres- 
sion of an exact man, to whom exaggeration was falsehood ; and 
his statements were always credited. I remember, among other 
things, his speaking of a captain whom I had known by re- 
port, who never handed a thing to a sailor, but put it on deck 
and kicked it to him ; and of another, who was highly connected 
in Boston, who absolutely murdered a lad from Boston who went 
out with him before the mast to Sumatra, by keeping him hard 
at work while ill of the coast fever, and obliging him to sleep 



214 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

in the close steerage. (The same captain has since died of the 
same fever on the same coast.) 

In fact, taking together all that I learned from him of sea- 
manship, of the history of sailors' lives, of practical wisdom, 
and of human nature under new circumstances and strange 
forms of life, — a great history from which many are shut out, 
— I would not part with the hours I spent in the watch with 
that man for the gift of many hours to be passed in study and 
intercourse with even the best of society. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

SUNDAY, October nth. Set sail this morning for the 
leeward ; passed within sight of San Pedro, and, to our 
great joy, did not come to anchor, but kept directly on 
to San Diego, where we arrived and moored ship on — 

Thursday, October i^th. Found here the Italian ship La 
Rosa, from the windward, which reported the brig Pilgrim at 
San Francisco, all well. Everything was as quiet here as usual. 
We discharged our hides, horns, and tallow, and were ready to 
sail again on the following Sunday. I went ashore to my old 
quarters, and found the gang at the hide-house going on in the 
even tenor of their way, and spent an hour or two, after dark, 
at the oven, taking a whiff with my old Kanaka friends, who 
really seemed glad to see me again, and saluted me as the 
Aikane of the Kanakas. I was grieved to find that my poor 
dog Bravo was dead. He had sickened and died suddenly the 
very day after I sailed in the Alert. 

Sunday was again, as usual, our sailing day, and we got 
under way with a stiff breeze, which reminded us that it was 
the latter part of the autumn and time to expect southeasters 
once more. We beat up against a strong head wind, under 
reefed topsails, as far as San Juan, where we came to anchor 
nearly three miles from the shore, with slip-ropes on our cables, 
in the old southeaster style of last winter. On the passage 
up, we had an old sea-captain on board, who had married and 
settled in California, and had not been on salt water for more 
than fifteen years. He was surprised at the changes and im- 
provements that had been made in ships, and still more at the 
manner in which we carried sail ; for he was really a little 
frightened, and said that while we had top-gallant-sails on, he 
should have been under reefed topsails. The working of the 

215 



2l6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ship, and her progress to windward, seemed to delight him, 
for he said she went to windward as though she were kedging. 
Tuesday^ October 20th. Having got everything ready, we 
set the agent ashore, who went up to the Mission to hurry down 
the hides for the next morning. This night we had the strictest 
orders to look out for southeasters ; and the long, low clouds 
seemed rather threatening. But the night passed over with- 
out any trouble, and early the next morning we hove out the 
long-boat and pinnace, lowered away the quarter-boats, and went 
ashore to bring off our hides. Here we were again, in this ro- 
mantic spot, — a perpendicular hill, twice the height of the 
ship's mast-head, with a single circuitous path to the top, and 
long sand-beach at its base, with the swell of the whole Pacific 
breaking high upon it, and our hides ranged in piles on the 
overhanging summit. The captain sent me, who was the only 
one of the crew that had ever been there before, to the top to 
count the hides and pitch them down. There I stood again, as 
six months before, throwing off the hides, and watching them, 
pitching and scaling, to the bottom, while the men, dwarfed 
by the distance, were walking to and fro on the beach, carry- 
ing the hides, as they picked them up, to the distant boats, up- 
on the tops of their heads. Two or three boat-loads were sent 
off, until at last all were thrown down, and the boats nearly 
loaded again, when we were delayed by a dozen or twenty 
hides which had lodged in the recesses of the bank, and which 
we could not reach by any missiles, as the general line of the 
side was exactly perpendicular, and these places were caved 
in, and could not be seen or reached from the top. As hides 
are worth in Boston twelve and a half cents a pound, and the 
captain's commission was one per cent, he determined not to 
give them up, and sent on board for a pair of top-gallant stud- 
ding-sail halyards, and requested some one of the crew to go 
to the top and come down by the halyards. The older sailors 
said the boys, who were light and active, ought to go ; while 
the boys thought that strength and experience were necessary. 
Seeing the dilemma, and feeling myself to be near the medium 



A DESCENT 21/ 

of these requisites, I offered my services, and went up, with 
one man to tend the rope, and prepared for the descent. 

We found a stake fastened strongly into the ground, and 
apparently capable of holding my weight, to which we made 
one end of the halyard well fast, and, taking the coil, threw it 
over the brink. The end, we saw, just reached to a landing- 
place, from which the descent to the beach was easy. Having 
nothing on but shirt, trousers, and hat, the common sea rig of 
warm weather, I had no stripping to do, and began my descent 
by taking hold of the rope with both hands, and slipping down, 
sometimes with hands and feet round the rope, and sometimes 
breasting off with one hand and foot against the precipice, and 
holding on to the rope with the other. In this way I de- 
scended until I came to a place which shelved in, and in which 
the hides were lodged. Keeping hold of the rope with one 
hand, I scrambled in, and by aid of my feet and the other 
hand succeeded in dislodging all the hides, and continued on 
my way. Just below this place, the precipice projected again, 
and, going over the projection, I could see nothing below me 
but the sea and the rocks upon which it broke, and a few gulls 
flying in mid-air. I got down in safety, pretty well covered 

with dirt ; and for my pains was told, " What a d d fool 

you were to risk your life for half a dozen hides ! " 

While we were carrying the hides to the boat, I perceived, 
what I had been too busy to observe before, that heavy black 
clouds were rolling up from seaward, a strong swell heaving 
in, and every sign of a southeaster. The captain hurried 
everything. The hides were pitched into the boats, and, with 
some difficulty, and by wading nearly up to our armpits, we 
got the boats through the surf, and began pulling aboard. 
Our gig's crew towed the pinnace astern of the gig, and the 
launch was towed by six men in the jolly-boat. The ship was 
lying three miles off, pitching at her anchor, and the farther 
we pulled, the heavier grew the swell. Our boat stood nearly 
up and down several times ; the pinnace parted her tow-line, 
and we expected every moment to see the launch swamped. 



2l8 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

At length we got alongside, our boats half full of water ; and 
now came the greatest trouble of all, — unloading the boats in 
a heavy sea, which pitched them about so that it was almost 
impossible to stand in them, raising them sometimes even 
with the rail, and again dropping them below the bends. With 
great difficulty we got all the hides aboard and stowed under 
hatches, the yard and stay tackles hooked on, and the launch 
and pinnace hoisted, chocked, and griped. The quarter-boats 
were then hoisted up, and we began heaving in on the chain. 
Getting the anchor was no easy work in such a sea, but as we 
were not coming back to this port, the captain determined not 
to slip. The ship's head pitched into the sea, and the water 
rushed through the hawse-holes, and the chain surged so as 
almost to unship the barrel of the windlass. " Hove short, 
sir ! " said the mate. " Aye, aye ! Weather-bit your chain and 
loose the topsail ! Make sail on her, men, — with a will ! " 
A few moments served to loose the topsails, which were furled 
with reefs, to sheet them home, and hoist them up. " Bear a 
hand ! " was the order of the day ; and every one saw the 
necessity of it, for the gale was already upon us. The ship 
broke out her own anchor, which we catted and fished, after 
a fashion, and were soon close-hauled, under reefed sails, stand- 
ing off from the lee shore and rocks against a heavy head sea. 
The fore course was given to her, which helped her a little ; 
but as she hardly held her own against the sea, which was 
setting her to leeward — ^^ Board the main tack!" shouted 
the captain, when the tack was carried forward and taken to 
the windlass, and all hands called to the handspikes. The 
great sail bellied out horizontally, as though it would lift up 
the main stay ; the blocks rattled and flew about ; but the 
force of machinery was too much for her. '' Heave ho ! 
Heave and pawl ! Yo, heave, hearty, ho ! " and, in time with 
the song, by the force of twenty strong arms, the windlass 
came slowly round, pawl after pawl, and the weather clew of 
the sail was brought down to the water-ways. The starboard 
watch hauled aft the sheet, and the ship tore through the water 



HURRIED DEPARTURE 219 

like a mad horse, quivering and shaking at every joint, and 
dashing from her head the foam, which flew off at each blow, 
■yards and yards to leeward. A half-hour of such sailing served 
our turn, when the clews of the sail were hauled up, the sail 
furled, and the ship, eased of her press, went more quietly on 
her way. Soon after, the foresail was reefed, and we mizzen- 
top men were sent up to take another reef in the mizzen top- 
sail. This was the first time I had taken a weather earing, 
and I felt not a little proud to sit astride of the weather yard- 
arm, pass the earing, and sing out, " Haul out to leeward ! " 
From this time until we got to Boston the mate never suffered 
any one but our own gang to go upon the mizzen topsail yard, 
either for reefing or furling, and the young English lad and 
I generally took the earings between us. 

Having cleared the point and got well out to sea, we 
squared away the yards, made more sail, and stood on, nearly 
before the wind, for San Pedro. It blew strong, with some 
rain, nearly all night, but fell calm toward morning, and the 
gale having blown itself out, we came-to, — 

Thursday^ October 22d, at San Pedro, in the old south- 
easter berth, a league from shore, with a slip-rope on the cable, 
reefs in the topsails, and rope-yarns for gaskets. Here we lay 
ten days, with the usual boating, hide-carrying, rolling of cargo 
up the steep hill, walking barefooted over stones, and getting 
drenched in salt water. 

The third day after our arrival, the Rosa came in from San 
Juan, where she went the day after the southeaster. Her 
crew said it was as smooth as a mill-pond after the gale, and 
she took off nearly a thousand hides, which had been brought 
down for us, and which we lost in consequence of the south- 
easter. This mortified us : not only that an Italian ship 
should have got to windward of us in the trade, but because 
every thousand hides went towards completing the forty thou- 
sand which we were to collect before we could say good-bye to 
California. 

While lying here, we shipped one new hand, an English- 



2 20 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

man, of about six-and-twenty years, who was an acquisition, as 
he proved to be a good sailor, could sing tolerably, and, what 
was of more importance to me, had a good education and a 
somewhat remarkable history. He called himself George P. 
Marsh ; professed to have been at sea from a small boy, and 
to have served his time in the smuggling trade between Ger- 
many and the coasts of France and England. Thus he ac- 
counted for his knowledge of the French language, which he 
spoke and read as well as he did English ; but his cutter edu- 
cation would not account for his English, which was far too 
good to have been learned in a smuggler ; for he wrote an 
uncommonly handsome hand, spoke with great correctness, 
and frequently, when in private talk with me, quoted from 
books, and showed a knowledge of the customs of society, and 
particularly of the formalities of the various English courts of 
law and of Parliament, which surprised me. Still he would 
give no other account of himself than that he was educated in 
a smuggler. A man whom we afterwards fell in with, who 
had been a shipmate of George's a few years before, said that 
he heard, at the boarding-house from which they shipped, that 
George had been at a college (probably a naval one, as he 
knew no Latin or Greek), where he learned French and 
mathematics. He was not the man by nature that Harris 
was. Harris had made everything of his mind and character 
in spite of obstacles ; while this man had evidently been born 
in a different rank, and educated early in life accordingly, but 
had been a vagabond, and done nothing for himself since. 
Neither had George the character, strength of mind, or 
memory of Harris ; yet there was about him the remains of a 
pretty good education, which enabled him to talk quite up to his 
brains, and a high spirit and amenability to the point of honour 
which years of a dog's life had not broken. After he had been 
a little while on board, we learned from him his adventures of 
the last two years, which we afterwards heard confirmed in 
such a manner as put the truth of them beyond a doubt. 

He sailed from New York in the year 1833, if I mistake 



A NEW SHIPMATE 221 

not, before the mast, in the brig Lascar, for Canton. She 
was sold in the East Indies, and he shipped at Manilla, in a 
small schooner, bound on a trading voyage among the Ladrone 
and Pelew Islands. On one of the latter islands their schooner 
was wrecked on a reef, and they were attacked by the natives, 
and, after a desperate resistance, in which all their number, 
except the captain, George, and a boy, were killed or drowned, 
they surrendered, and were carried bound, in a canoe, to a 
neighbouring island. In about a month after this, an oppor- 
tunity occurred by which one of their number might get away. 
I have forgotten the circumstances, but only one could go, and 
they gave way to the captain, upon his promising to send them 
aid if he escaped. He was successful in his attempt ; got on 
board an American vessel, went back to Manilla, and thence 
to America, without making any effort for their rescue, or, in- 
deed, as George afterwards discovered, without even mention- 
ing their case to any one in Manilla. The boy that was with 
George died, and he being alone, and there being no chance 
for his escape, the natives soon treated him with kindness, and 
even with attention. They painted him, tattooed his body (for 
he would never consent to be marked in the face or hands), 
gave him two or three wives, and, in fact, made a pet of him. 
In this way he lived for thirteen months, in a delicious climate, 
with plenty to eat, half naked, and nothing to do. He soon, 
however, became tired, and went round the island, on different 
pretences, to look out for a sail. One day he was out fishing 
in a small canoe with another man, when he saw a large sail 
to windward, about a league and a half off, passing abreast of 
the island and standing westward. With some difficulty, he 
persuaded the islander to go off with him to the ship, promis- 
ing to return with a good supply of rum and tobacco. These 
articles, which the islanders had got a taste of from American 
traders, were too strong a temptation for the fellow, and he 
consented. They paddled off in the track in which the ship 
was bound, and lay to until she came down to them. George 
stepped on board the ship, nearly naked, painted from head to 



222 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

foot, and in no way distinguishable from his companion until 
he began to speak. Upon this the people on board were not 
a little astonished, and, having learned his story, the captain 
had him washed and clothed, and, sending away the poor 
astonished native with a knife or two and some tobacco and 
calico, took George with him on the voyage. This was the 
ship Cabot, of New York, Captain Low. She was bound to 
Manilla, from across the Pacific ; and George did seaman's 
duty in her until her arrival in Manilla, when he left her, and 
shipped in a brig bound to the Sandwich Islands. From 
Oahu, he came, in the British brig Clementine, to Monterey, as 
second officer, where, having some difficulty with the captain, 
he left her, and, coming down the coast, joined us at San Pedro. 
Nearly six months after this, among some papers we received 
by an arrival from Boston, we found a letter from Captain 
Low, of the Cabot, published immediately upon his arrival at 
New York, giving all the particulars just as we had them from 
George. The letter was published for the information of the 
friends of George, and Captain Low added that he left him at 
Manilla to go to Oahu, and he had heard nothing of him since. 
George had an interesting journal of his adventures in the 
Pelew Islands, which he had written out at length, in a hand- 
some hand, and in correct English.^ 

I In the spring of 1841, a sea-faring man called at my rooms, in Boston, and 
said he wished to see me, as he knew something about a man I had spoken of in 
my book. He then told me that he was second mate of the bark Mary Frazer, 
which sailed from Batavia in company with the Cabot, bound to Manilla, that 
when off the Pelew Islands they fell in with a canoe with two natives on board, 
who told them that there was an American ship ahead, out of sight, and that they 
had put a white man on board of her. The bark gave the canoe a tow for a short 
distance. When the Mary Frazer arrived at Manilla, they found the Cabot there; 
and my informant said that George came on board several times, and told the same 
story that I had given of him in this book. He said the name of George's 
schooner was the Dash, and that she was wrecked, and attacked by the natives, as 
George had told me. 

This man, whose name was Beauchamp, was second mate of the Mary Frazer 
when she took the missionaries to Oahu. He became religious during the passage, 
and joined the mission church at Oahu upon his arrival. When I saw him, he was 
master of a bark. 



CHAPTER XXV 

SUNDAY, Nove7nber ist. Sailed this day (Sunday again) 
for Santa Barbara, where we arrived on the 5 th. Coming 
round Santa Buenaventura, and nearing the anchorage, 
we saw two vessels in port, a large full-rigged, and a small, 
hermaphrodite brig. The former, the crew said, must be the 
Pilgrim ; but I had been too long in the Pilgrim to be mis- 
taken in her, and I was right in differing from them ; for, 
upon nearer approach, her long, low, shear, sharp bows, and 
raking masts, told quite another story. *< Man-of-war brig," 
said some of them; "Baltimore clipper," said others; the 
Ayacucho, thought I ; and soon the broad folds of the beauti- 
ful banner of St. George — white field with blood-red border 
and cross — were displayed from her peak. A few minutes 
put it beyond a doubt, and we were lying by the side of the 
Ayacucho, which had sailed from San Diego about nine months 
before, while we were lying there in the Pilgrim. She had 
since been to Valparaiso, Callao, and the Sandwich Islands, 
and had just come upon the coast. Her boat came on board, 
bringing Captain Wilson ; and in half an hour the news was 
all over the ship that there was a war between the United 
States and France. Exaggerated accounts reached the fore- 
castle. Battles had been fought, a large French fleet was in 
the Pacific, etc. ; and one of the boat's crew of the Ayacucho 
said that, when they left Callao, a large French frigate and 
the American frigate Brandywine, which were lying there, 
were going outside to have a battle, and that the English 
frigate Blonde was to be umpire, and see fair play. Here was 
important news for us. Alone, on an unprotected coast, with- 
out an American man-of-war within some thousands of miles, 
and the prospect of a voyage home through the whole length 

223 



224 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans ! A French prison seemed 
a much more probable place of destination than the good port 
of Boston. However, we were too salt to believe every yarn 
that comes into the forecastle, and waited to hear the truth of 
the matter from higher authority. By means of the super- 
cargo's clerk I got the amount of the matter, which was, that 
the governments had had a difficulty about the payment of a 
debt ; that war had been threatened and prepared for, but not 
actually declared, although it was pretty generally anticipated. 
This was not quite so bad, yet was no small cause of anxiety. 
But we cared very little about the matter ourselves. " Happy 
go lucky " with Jack ! We did not believe that a French prison 
would be much worse than "hide droghing " on the coast of 
California ; and no one who has not been a long, dull voyage, 
shut up in one ship, can conceive of the effect of monotony 
upon one's thoughts and wishes. The prospect of a change 
is a green spot in the desert, and the probability of great 
events and exciting scenes creates a feeling of delight, and 
sets life in motion, so as to give a pleasure which any one not 
in the same state would be unable to explain. In fact, a more 
jovial night we had not passed in the forecastle for months. 
All seemed in unaccountably high spirits. An undefined an- 
ticipation of radical changes, of new scenes and great doings, 
seemed to have possessed every one, and the common drudgery 
of the vessel appeared contemptible. Here was a new vein 
opened, — a grand theme of conversation and a topic for all 
sorts of discussions. National feeling was wrought up. Jokes 
were cracked upon the only Frenchman in the ship, and com- 
parisons made between "old horse" and "soup meagre," 
etc. 

We remained in uncertainty as to this war for more than 
two months, when an arrival from the Sandwich Islands 
brought us the news of an amicable arrangement of the diffi- 
culties. 

The other vessel which we found in port was the hermaph- 
rodite brig Avon, from the Sandwich Islands. She was fitted 



A SPOUTER 225 

up in handsome style ; fired a gun, and ran her ensign up and 
down at sunrise and sunset ; had a band of four or five pieces 
of music on board, and appeared rather Hke a pleasure yacht 
than a trader ; yet, in connection with the Loriotte, Clemen- 
tine, Bolivar, Convoy, and other small vessels, belonging to 
sundry Americans at Oahu, she carried on a considerable 
trade, — legal and illegal, in otter-skins, silks, teas, etc., as 
well as hides and tallow. 

The second day after our arrival, a full-rigged brig came 
round the point from the northward, sailed leisurely through 
the bay, and stood off again for the southeast in the direction 
of the large island of Catalina. The next day the Avon got 
under way, and stood in the same direction, bound for San 
Pedro. This might do for marines and Californians, but we 
knew the ropes too well. The brig was never again seen on 
the coast, and the Avon went into San Pedro in about a week 
with a replenished cargo of Canton and American goods. 

This was one of the means of escaping the heavy duties 
the Mexicans lay upon all imports. A vessel comes on the 
coast, enters a moderate cargo at Monterey, which is the only 
custom-house, and commences trading. In a month or more, 
having sold a large part of her cargo, she stretches over to 
Catalina, or other of the large, uninhabited islands which lie 
off the coast, in a trip from port to port, and supplies herself 
with choice goods from a vessel from Oahu, which has been 
lying off and on the islands, waiting for her. Two days after 
the sailing of the Avon, the Loriotte came in from the leeward, 
and without doubt had also a snatch at the brig's cargo. 

Tuesday y November loth. Going ashore, as usual, in the 
gig, just before sundown, to bring off the captain, we found, 
upon taking in the captain and pulling off again, that our ship, 
which lay the farthest out, had run up her ensign. This meant 
" Sail ho ! " of course, but as we were within the point we 
could see nothing. *' Give way, boys ! Give way ! Lay out on 
your oars, and long stroke ! " said the captain ; and stretching 
to the whole length of our arms, bending back again so that 



226 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

our backs touched the thwarts, we sent her through the water 
like a rocket. A few minutes of such pulling opened the 
islands, one after another, in range of the point, and gave us a 
view of the Canal, where was a ship, under top-gallant-sails, 
standing in, with a light breeze, for the anchorage. Putting 
the boat's head in the direction of the ship, the captain told us 
to lay out again ; and we needed no spurring, for the prospect 
of boarding a new ship, perhaps from home, hearing the news, 
and having something to tell of when we got back, was excite- 
ment enough for us, and we gave way with a will. Captain 
Nye, of the Loriotte, who had been an old whaleman, was in 
the stern-sheets, and fell mightily into the spirit of it. '' Bend 
your backs, and break your oars ! " said he. '' Lay me on. 
Captain Bunker ! " ''There she flukes ! " and other exclama- 
tions current among whalemen. In the mean time it fell flat 
calm, and, being within a couple of miles of the ship, we ex- 
pected to board her in a few minutes, when a breeze sprung 
up, dead ahead for the ship, and she braced up and stood off 
toward the islands, sharp on the larboard tack, making good 
way through the water. This, of course, brought us up, and 
we had only to ''ease larboard oars, pull round starboard!" 
and go aboard the Alert, with something very like a flea in the 
ear. There was a light land-breeze all night, and the ship did 
not come to anchor until the next morning. 

As soon as her anchor was down we went aboard, and found 
her to be the whale-ship Wilmington and Liverpool Packet, of 
New Bedford, last from the " off-shore ground," with nineteen 
hundred barrels of oil. A "spouter" we knew her to be, as 
soon as we saw her, by her cranes and boats, and by her stump 
top-gallant-masts, and a certain slovenly look to the sails, rig- 
ging, spars, and hull ; and when we got on board, we found 
everything to correspond, — spouter fashion. She had a false 
deck, which was rough and oily, and cut up in every direction 
by the chimes of oil casks ; her rigging was slack, and turning 
white, paint worn off the spars and blocks, clumsy seizings, 
straps without covers, and " homeward bound splices " in every 



A SPOUTER 227 

direction. Her crew, too, were not in much better order. Her 
captain was a slab-sided Quaker, in a suit of brown, with a 
broad-brimmed hat, bending his long legs, as he moved about 
decks, with his head down, like a sheep, and the men looked 
more like fishermen and farmers than they did like sailors. 

Though it was by no means cold weather (we having on 
only our red shirts and duck trousers), they all had on woollen 
trousers, — not blue and ship-shape, but of all colours, — 
brown, drab, gray, aye, and green, — with suspenders over 
their shoulders, and pockets to put their hands in. This, 
added to Guernsey frocks, striped comforters about the neck, 
thick cowhide boots, woollen caps, and a strong, oily smell, 
and a decidedly green look, will complete the description. 
Eight or ten were on the fore topsail yard, and as many more 
in the main, furling the topsails, while eight or ten were hang- 
ing about the forecastle, doing nothing. This was a strange 
sight for a vessel coming to anchor ; so we went up to them, 
to see what was the matter. One of them, a stout, hearty- 
looking fellow, held out his leg and said he had the scurvy ; 
another had cut his hand ; and others had got nearly well, but 
said there were plenty aloft to furl the sails, so they were 
sogering on the forecastle. There was only one "splicer " on 
board, a fine-looking old tar, who was in the bunt of the fore 
topsail. He was probably the only thorough marline-spike 
seaman in the ship, before the mast. The mates, of course, 
and the boat-steerers, and also two or three of the crew, had 
been to sea before, but only on whaling voyages ; and the 
greater part of the crew were raw hands, just from the bush, 
and had not yet got the hay-seed out of their hair. The miz- 
zen topsail hung in the buntlines until everything was furled 
forward. Thus a crew of thirty men were half an hour in 
doing what would have been done in the Alert, with eighteen 
hands to go aloft, in fifteen or twenty minutes.' 

I I have been told that this description of a whaleman has given offence to the 
whale-trading people of Nantucket, New Bedford, and the Vineyard. It is not 
exaggerated; and the appearance of such a ship and crew might well impress a 



228 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

We found they had been at sea six or eight months, and 
had no news to tell us, so we left them, and promised to get 
liberty to come on board in the evening for some curiosities. 
Accordingly, as soon as we were knocked off in the evening 
and were through supper, we obtained leave, took a boat, and 
went aboard and spent an hour or two. They gave us pieces of 
whalebone, and the teeth and other parts of curious sea animals, 
and we exchanged books with them, — a practice very common 
among ships in foreign ports, by which you get rid of the books 
you have read and re-read, and a supply of new ones in their 
stead, and Jack is not very nice as to their comparative value.' 

Thu7'sday, November 12th. This day was quite cool in the 
early part, and there were black clouds about ; but as it was 
often so in the morning, nothing was apprehended, and all the 
captains went ashore together to spend the day. Towards 
noon the clouds hung heavily over the mountains, coming half- 
way down the hills that encircle the town of Santa Barbara, 
and a heavy swell rolled in from the southeast. The mate 
immediately ordered the gig's crew away, and, at the same 
time, we saw boats pulling ashore from the other vessels. 
Here was a grand chance for a rowing-match, and every one 
did his best. We passed the boats of the Ayacucho and 
Loriotte, but could not hold our own with the long six-oared 
boat of the whale-ship. They reached the breakers before us ; 
but here we had the advantage of them, for, not being used to 
the surf, they were obliged to wait to see us beach our boat, 
just as, in the same place, nearly a year before, we, in the 
Pilgrim, were glad to be taught by a boat's crew of Kanakas. 

young man trained in the ways of a ship of the style of the Alert. Long observa- 
tion has satisfied me that there are no better seamen, so far as handling a ship is 
concerned, and none so venturous and skilful navigators, as the masters and offi- 
cers of our whalemen. But never, either on this voyage, or in a subsequent visit 
to the Pacific and its islands, was it my fortune to fall in with a whaleship whose 
appearance, and the appearance of whose crew, gave signs of strictness of disci- 
pHne and seaman-like neatness. Probably these things are impossibilities, from the 
nature of the business, and I may have made too much of them. 

I This visiting between the crews of ships at sea is called, among whalemen, 
"gamming." 



SUDDEN SLIPPING FOR A SOUTHEASTER 229 

We had hardly got the boats beached, and their heads 
pointed out to sea, before our old friend. Bill Jackson, the 
handsome English sailor, who steered the Loriotte's boat, 
called out that his brig was adrift ; and, sure enough, she was 
dragging her anchors, and drifting down into the bight of the 
bay. Without waiting for the captain (for there was no one 
on board the brig but the mate and steward), he sprung into 
the boat, called the Kanakas together, and tried to put off. 
But the Kanakas, though capital water-dogs, were frightened 
by their vessel's being adrift, and by the emergency of the 
case, and seemed to lose their faculties. Twice their boat 
filled, and came broadside upon the beach. Jackson swore 
at them for a parcel of savages, and promised to flog every one 
of them. This made the matter no better ; when we came 
forward, told the Kanakas to take their seats in the boat, and, 
going two on each side, walked out with her till it was up to 
our shoulders, and gave them a shove, when, giving way with 
their oars, they got her safely into the long, regular swell. In 
the meantime, boats had put off to the Loriotte from our ship 
and the whaler, and, coming all on board the brig together, 
they let go the other anchor, paid out chain, braced the yards 
to the wind, and brought the vessel up. 

In a few minutes, the captains came hurrying down, on the 
run ; and there was no time to be lost, for the gale promised 
to be a severe one, and the surf was breaking upon the beach, 
three deep, higher and higher every instant. The Ayacucho's 
boat, pulled by four Kanakas, put off first, and as they had no 
rudder or steering-oar, would probably never have got off, had 
we not waded out with them as far as the surf would permit. 
The next that made the attempt was the whale-boat, for we, 
being the most experienced "beachcombers," needed no help, 
and stayed till the last. Whalemen make the best boats' 
crews in the world for a long pull, but this landing was new 
to them, and, notwithstanding the examples they had had, they 
slued round and were hove up — boat, oars, and men — all 
together, high and dry upon the sand. The second time they 



230 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

filled, and had to turn their boat over, and set her off again. 
We could be of no help to them, for they were so many as to 
be in one another's way, without the addition of our numbers. 
The third time they got off, though not without shipping a 
sea which drenched them all, and half filled their boat, keeping 
them baling until they reached their ship. We now got ready 
to go off, putting the boat's head out ; English Ben and I, 
who were the largest, standing on each side of the bows to 
keep her head out to the sea, two more shipping and manning 
the two after oars, and the captain taking the steering oar. 
Two or three Mexicans, who stood upon the beach looking at 
us, wrapped their cloaks about them, shook their heads, and 
muttered " Caramba ! " They had no taste for such doings ; in 
fact, the hydrophobia is a national malady, and shows itself in 
their persons as well as their actions. 

Watching for a ''smooth chance," we determined to show 
the other boats the way it should be done, and, as soon as 
ours floated, ran out with her, keeping her head out, with all 
our strength, and the help of the captain's oar, and the two 
after oarsmen giving way regularly and strongly, until our feet 
were off the ground, we tumbled into the bows, keeping per-, 
fectly still, from fear of hindering the others. For some time 
it was doubtful how it would go. The boat stood nearly up 
and down in the water, and the sea, rolling from under her, let 
her fall upon the water with a force which seemed almost to 
stave her bottom in. By quietly sliding two oars forward, 
along the thwarts, without impeding the rowers, we shipped 
two bow oars, and thus, by the help of four oars and the cap- 
tain's strong arm, we got safely off, though we shipped several 
seas, which left us half full of water. We pulled alongside of 
the Loriotte, put her skipper on board, and found her making 
preparations for slipping, and then pulled aboard our own ship. 
Here Mr. Brown, always "on hand," had got everything ready, 
so that we had only to hook on the gig and hoist it up, when 
the order was given to loose the sails. While we were on the 
yards, we saw the Loriotte under way, and, before our yards 



SUDDEN SLIPPING FOR A SOUTHEASTER 23 1 

were mast-headed, the Ayacucho had spread her wings, and, 
with yards braced sharp up, was standing athwart our hawse. 
There is no prettier sight in the world than a full-rigged, 
clipper-built brig, sailing sharp on the wind. In a minute 
more our slip-rope was gone, the head-yards filled away, and 
we were off. Next came the whaler ; and in half an hour 
from the time when four vessels were lying quietly at anchor, 
without a rag out, or a sign of motion, the bay was deserted, 
and four white clouds were moving over the water to seaward. 
Being sure of clearing the point, we stood off with our yards 
a little braced in, while the Ayacucho went off with a taut 
bowline, which brought her to windward of us. During all 
this day, and the greater part of the night, we had the usual 
southeaster entertainment, a gale of wind, with occasional 
rain, and finally topped off with a drenching rain of three or 
four hours. At daybreak the clouds thinned off and rolled 
away, and the sun came up clear. The wind, instead of com- 
ing out from the northward, as is usual, blew steadily and 
freshly from the anchoring-ground. This was bad for us, for, 
being "flying light," with little more than ballast trim, we 
were in no condition for showing off on a taut bowline, and 
had depended upon a fair wind, with which, by the help of 
our light sails and studding-sails, we meant to have been the 
first at the anchoring-ground ; but the Ayacucho was a good 
league to windward of us, and was standing in in fine style. 
The whaler, however, was as far to leeward of us, and the 
Loriotte was nearly out of sight, among the islands, up the 
Canal. By hauling every brace and bowline, and clapping 
watch-tackles upon all the sheets and halyards, we managed 
to hold our own, and drop the leeward vessels a little in every 
tack. When we reached the anchoring-ground, the Ayacucho 
had got her anchor, furled her sails, squared her yards, and 
was lying as quietly as if nothing had happened. 

We had our usual good luck in getting our anchor without 
letting go another, and were all snug, with our boats at the 
boom-ends, in half an hour, In about two hours more the 



232 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

whaler came in, and made a clumsy piece of work in getting 
her anchor, being obliged to let go her best bower, and, finally, 
to get out a kedge and a hawser. They were heave-ho-ing, 
stopping and unstopping, pawling, catting, and fishing for three 
hours ; and the sails hung from the yards all the afternoon, 
and were not furled until sundown. The Loriotte came in 
just after dark, and let go her anchor, making no attempt to 
pick up the other until the next day. 

This affair led to a dispute as to the sailing of our ship 
and the Ayacucho. Bets were made between the captains, 
and the crews took it up in their own way ; but as she was 
bound to leeward and we to windward, and merchant captains 
can not deviate, a trial never took place ; and perhaps it was 
well for us that it did not, for the Ayacucho had been eight 
years in the Pacific, in every part of it, — Valparaiso, Sand- 
wich Islands, Canton, California, and all, — and was called the 
fastest merchantman that traded in the Pacific, unless it was 
the brig John Gilpin, and perhaps the ship Ann McKim, of 
Baltimore. 

Saturday y November iph. This day we got under way, 
with the agent and several Mexicans of note, as passengers, 
bound up to Monterey. We went ashore in the gig to bring 
them off with their baggage, and found them waiting on the 
beach, and a little afraid about going off, as the surf was run- 
ning very high. This was nuts to us, for we liked to have a 
Mexican wet with salt water ; and then the agent was very 
much disliked by the crew, one and all; and we hoped, as 
there was no officer in the boat, to have a chance to duck 
them, for we knew that they were such "marines " that they 
would not know whether it was our fault or not. Accordingly, 
we kept the boat so far from shore as to oblige them to wet 
their feet in getting into her ; and then waited for a good high 
comber, and, letting the head slue a little round, sent the whole 
force of the sea into the stern-sheets, drenching them from 
head to feet. The Mexicans sprang out of the boat, swore, 
and shook themselves, and protested against trying it again ; 



TO WINDWARD 233 

and it was with the greatest difficulty that the agent could 
prevail upon them to make another attempt. The next time 
we took care, and went off easily enough, and pulled aboard. 
The crew came to the side to hoist in their baggage, and 
heartily enjoyed the half-drowned looks of the company. 

Everything being now ready, and the passengers aboard, 
we ran up the ensign and broad pennant (for there was no 
man-of-war, and we were the largest vessel on the coast), and 
the other vessels ran up their ensigns. Having hove short, 
cast off the gaskets, and made the bunt of each sail fast by the 
jigger, with a man on each yard, at the word the whole canvas 
of the ship was loosed, and with the greatest rapidity possible 
everything was sheeted home and hoisted up, the anchor 
tripped and cat-headed, and the ship under headway. We 
were determined to show the '' spouter " how things could be 
done in a smart ship, with a good crew, though not more than 
half his numbers. The royal yards were all crossed at once, 
and royals and sky-sails set, and, as we had the wind free, the 
booms were run out, and all were aloft, active as cats, laying 
out on the yards and booms, reeving the studding-sail gear ; 
and sail after sail the captain piled upon her, until she was 
covered with canvas, her sails looking like a great white cloud 
resting upon a black speck. Before we doubled the point, 
we were going at a dashing rate, and leaving the shipping far 
astern. We had a fine breeze to take us through the Canal, 
as they call this bay of forty miles long by ten wide. The 
breeze died away at night, and we were becalmed all day on 
Sunday, about half-way between Santa Barbara and Point Con- 
ception. Sunday night we had a light, fair wind, which set 
us up again ; and having a fine sea-breeze on the first part of 
Monday we had the prospect of passing, without any trouble, 
Point Conception, — the Cape Horn of California, where, the 
sailors say, it begins to blow the first of January, and blows 
until the last of December. Toward the latter part of the 
afternoon, however, the regular northwest wind, as usual, set 
in, which brought in our studding-sails, and gave us the chance 



234 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

of beating round the Point, which we were now just abreast of, 
and which stretched off into the Pacific, high, rocky, and barren, 
forming the central point of the coast for hundreds of miles 
north and south. A cap-full of wind will be a bag-full here, 
and before night our royals were furled, and the ship was 
labouring hard under her top-gallant-sails. At eight bells our 
watch went below, leaving her with as much sail as she could 
stagger under, the water flying over the forecastle at every 
plunge. It was evidently blowing harder, but then there was 
not a cloud in the sky, and the sun had gone down bright. 

We had been below but a short time, before we had the 
usual premonitions of a coming gale, — seas washing over 
the whole forward part of the vessel, and her bows beating 
against them with a force and sound like the driving of piles. 
The watch, too, seemed very busy trampling about decks, and 
singing out at the ropes. A sailor can tell, by the sound, what 
sail is coming in ; and, in a short time, we heard the top- 
gallant-sails come in, one after another, and then the flying 
jib. This seemed to ease her a good deal, and we were fast 
going off to the land of Nod, when — bang, bang, bang — on 
the scuttle, and "All hands, reef topsails, ahoy!" started us 
out of our berths ; and, it not being very cold weather, we had 
nothing extra to put on, and were soon on deck. I shall never 
forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear, and rather 
a chilly night ; the stars were twinkling with an intense bright- 
ness, and as far as the eye could reach there was not a cloud 
to be seen. The horizon met the sea in a defined line. A 
painter could not have painted so clear a sky. There was 
not a speck upon it. Yet it was blowing great guns from 
the northwest. When you can see a cloud to windward, you 
feel that there is a place for the wind to come from ; but here 
it seemed to come from nowhere. No person could have told 
from the heavens, by their eyesight alone, that it was not a 
still summer's night. One reef after another we took in the 
topsails, and before we could get them hoisted up we heard a 
sound like a short, quick rattling of thunder, and the jib was 



A DRY GALE 235 

blown to atoms out of the bolt-rope. We got the topsails set, 
and the fragments of the jib stowed away, and the fore top- 
mast staysail set in its place, when the great mainsail gaped 
open, and the sail ripped from head to foot. " Lay up on that 
main yard and furl the sail, before it blows to tatters ! " shouted 
the captain ; and in a moment we were up, gathering the re- 
mains of it upon the yard. We got it wrapped round the yard, 
and passed gaskets over it as snugly as possible, and were just 
on deck again, when, with another loud rent, which was heard 
throughout the ship, the fore topsail, which had been double- 
reefed, split in two athwartships, just below the reef-band, from 
earing to earing. Here again it was — down yard, haul out 
reef-tackles, and lay out upon the yard for reefing. By haul- 
ing the reef-tackles chock-a-block we took the strain from the 
other earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and knotting 
the points carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close 
reefed. 

We had but just got the rigging coiled up, and were waiting 
to hear " Go below the watch ! " when the main royal worked 
loose from the gaskets, and blew directly out to leeward, flap- 
ping, and shaking the mast like a wand. Here was a job for 
somebody. The royal must come in or be cut adrift, or the 
mast would be snapped short off. All the light hands in 
the starboard watch were sent up one after another, but they 
could do nothing with it. At length, John, the tall French- 
man, the head of the starboard watch (and a better sailor never 
stepped upon a deck), sprang aloft, and, by the help of his 
long arms and legs, succeeded, after a hard struggle, — the sail 
blowing over the yard-arm to leeward, and the skysail adrift 
directly over his head, — in smothering it and frapping it with 
long pieces of sinnet. He came very near being blown or 
shaken from the yard, several times, but he was a true sailor, 
every finger a fish-hook. Having made the sail snug, he pre- 
pared to send the yard down, which was a long and difficult 
job ; for, frequently, he was obliged to stop, and hold on with 
all his might for several minutes, the ship pitching so as to 



236 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

make it impossible to do anything else at that height. The 
yard at length came down safe, and, after it, the fore and 
mizzen royal yards were sent down. All hands were then 
sent aloft, and for an hour or two we were hard at work, mak- 
ing the booms well fast, unreeving the studding-sail and royal 
and skysail gear, getting rolling-ropes on the yard, setting up 
the weather breast-backstays, and making other preparations for 
a storm. It was a fine night for a gale ; just cool and bracing 
enough for quick work, without being cold, and as bright as 
day. It was sport to have a gale in such weather as this. 
Yet it blew like a hurricane. The wind seemed to come with 
a spite, an edge to it, which threatened to scrape us off the 
yards. The force of the wind was greater than I had ever 
felt it before ; but darkness, cold, and wet are the worst parts 
of a storm, to a sailor. 

Having got on deck again, we looked round to see what 
time of night it was, and whose watch. In a few minutes the 
man at the wheel struck four bells, and we found that the other 
watch was out, and our own half out. Accordingly, the star- 
board watch went below, and left the ship to us for a couple 
of hours, yet with orders to stand by for a call. 

Hardly had they got below, before away went the fore top- 
mast staysail, blown to ribands. This was a small sail, which 
we could manage in the watch, so that we were not obliged to 
call up the other watch. We laid out upon the bowsprit, where 
we were under water half the time, and took in the fragments 
of the sail, and, as she must have some head sail on her, pre- 
pared to bend another staysail. We got the new one out into 
the nettings ; seized on the tack, sheets, and halyards, and the 
hanks ; manned the halyards, cut adrift the frapping-lines, 
and hoisted away; but before it was half-way up the stay it 
was blown all to pieces. When we belayed the halyards, there 
was nothing left but the bolt-rope. Now large eyes began to 
show themselves in the foresail, and knowing that it must soon 
go, the mate ordered us upon the yard to furl it. Being unwill- 
ing to call up the watch who had been on deck all night, he 



A DRY GALE 237 

roused out the carpenter, sailmaker, cook, and steward, and 
with their help we manned the fore yard, and, after nearly 
half an hour's struggle, mastered the sail, and got it well 
furled round the yard. The force of the wind had never been 
greater than at this moment. In going up the rigging, it 
seemed absolutely to pin us down to the shrouds ; and, on the 
yard, there was no such thing as turning a face to windward. 
Yet here was no driving sleet, and darkness, and wet, and 
cold, as off Cape Horn ; and instead of stiff oil-cloth suits, 
southwester caps, and thick boots, we had on hats, round 
jackets, duck trousers, light shoes, and everything light and 
easy. These things make a great difference to a sailor. 
When we got on deck, the man at the wheel struck eight 
bells (four o'clock in the morning), and **A11 starbowlines, 
ahoy ! " brought the other watch up, but there was no going 
below for us. The gale was now at its height, "blowing like 
scissors and thumb-screws " ; the captain was on deck ; the 
ship, which was light, rolling and pitching as though she would 
shake the long sticks out of her, and the sails were gaping open 
and splitting in every direction. The mizzen topsail, which 
was a comparatively new sail, and close reefed, split from head 
to foot, in the bunt ; the fore topsail went, in one rent, from 
clew to earing, and was blowing to tatters ; one of the chain 
bobstays parted ; the spritsail yard sprung in the slings ; the 
martingale had slued away off to leeward ; and, owing to the 
long dry weather, the lee rigging hung in large bights at every 
lurch. One of the main top-gallant shrouds had parted ; and, 
to crown all, the galley had got adrift, and gone over to lee- 
ward, and the anchor on the lee bow had worked loose, and 
was thumping the side. Here was work enough for all hands 
for half a day. Our gang laid out on the mizzen topsail yard, 
and after more than half an hour's hard work, furled the sail, 
though it bellied out over our heads, and again, by a slat of 
the wind, blew in under the yard with a fearful jerk, and al- 
most threw us off from the foot-ropes. 

Double gaskets were passed round the yards, rolling tackles 



238 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and other gear bowsed taut, and everything made as secure as 
it could be. Coming down, we found the rest of the crew 
just coming down the fore rigging, having furled the tattered 
topsail, or, rather, swathed it round the yard, which looked 
like a broken limb, bandaged. There was no sail now on the 
ship, but the spanker and the close-reefed main topsail, which 
still held good. But this was too much after sail, and order 
was given to furl the spanker. The brails were hauled up, 
and all the light hands in the starboard watch sent out on the 
gaff to pass the gaskets ; but they could do nothing with it. 
The second mate swore at them for a parcel of '^ sogers," and 
sent up a couple of the best men ; but they could do no better, 
and the gaff was lowered down. All hands were now em- 
ployed in setting up the lee rigging, fishing the spritsail yard, 
lashing the galley, and getting tackles upon the martingale, to 
bowse it to windward. Being in the larboard watch, my duty 
was forward, to assist in setting up the martingale. Three of 
us went out on the martingale guys and back-ropes for more 
than half an hour, carrying out, hooking and unhooking the 
tackles, several times buried in the seas, until the mate ordered 
us in, from fear of our being washed off. The anchors were 
then to be taken up on the rail, which kept all hands on 
the forecastle for an hour, though every now and then the 
seas broke over it, washing the rigging off to leeward, filling 
the lee scuppers breast-high, and washing chock aft to the 
taffrail. 

Having got everything secure again, we were promising 
ourselves some breakfast, for it was now nearly nine o'clock 
in the forenoon, when the main topsail showed evident signs 
of giving way. Some sail must be kept on the ship, and the 
captain ordered the fore and main spencer gaffs to be lowered 
down, and the two spencers (which were storm sails, bran-new, 
small, and made of the strongest canvas) to be got up and 
bent ; leaving the main topsail to blow away, with a blessing 
on it, if it would only last until we could set the spencers. 
These we bent on very carefully, with strong robands and 



A DRY GALE 239 

seizings, and, making tackles fast to the clews, bowsed them 
down to the water-ways. By this time the main topsail was 
among the things that have been, and we went aloft to stow 
away the remnant of the last sail of all those which were on 
the ship twenty-four hours before. The spencers were now 
the only whole sails on the ship, and, being strong and small, 
and near the deck, presenting but little surface to the wind 
above the rail, promised to hold out well. Hove-to under 
these, and eased by having no sail above the tops, the ship 
rose and fell, and drifted off to leeward like a line-of-battle 
ship. 

It was now eleven o'clock, and the watch was sent below 
to get breakfast, and at eight bells (noon), as everything was 
snug, although the gale had not in the least abated, the watch 
was set, and the other watch and idlers sent below. For three 
days and three nights the gale continued with unabated fury, 
and with singular regularity. There were no lulls, and very 
little variation in its fierceness. Our ship, being light, rolled 
so as almost to send the fore yard-arm under water, and drifted 
off bodily to leeward. All this time there was not a cloud to 
be seen in the sky, day or night ; no, not so large as a man's 
hand. Every morning the sun rose cloudless from the sea, 
and set again at night in the sea, in a flood of light. The 
stars, too, came out of the blue one after another, night after 
night, unobscured, and twinkled as clear as on a still, frosty 
night at home, until the day came upon them. All this time 
the sea was rolling in immense surges, white with foam, as far 
as the eye could reach, on every side, for we were now leagues 
and leagues from shore. 

The between-decks being empty, several of us slept there 
in hammocks, which are the best things in the world to sleep 
in during a storm ; it not being true of them, as it is of 
another kind of bed, "when the wind blows the cradle will 
rock " ; for it is the ship that rocks, while they hang vertically 
from the beams. During these seventy-two hours we had 
nothing to do but to turn in and out, four hours on deck, and 



240 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

four below, eat, sleep, and keep watch. The watches were 
only varied by taking the helm in turn and now and then by 
one of the sails, which were furled, blowing out of the gaskets, 
and getting adrift, which sent us up on the yards, and by get- 
ting tackles on different parts of the rigging, which were slack. 
Once the wheel-rope parted, which might have been fatal to us, 
had not the chief mate sprung instantly with a relieving tackle 
to windward, and kept the tiller up, till a new rope could be 
rove. On the morning of the twentieth, at daybreak, the gale 
had evidently done its worst, and had somewhat abated ; so 
much so that all hands were called to bend new sails, although 
it was still blowing as hard as two common gales. One at a 
time, and with great difficulty and labour, the old sails were un- 
bent and sent down by the buntlines, and three new top-sails, 
made for the homeward passage round Cape Horn, which had 
never been bent, were got up from the sail-room, and, under 
the care of the sailmaker, were fitted for bending, and sent up 
by the halyards into the tops, and, with stops and frapping- 
lines, were bent to the yards, close-reefed, sheeted home, and 
hoisted. These were bent one at a time, and with the greatest 
care and difficulty. Two spare courses were then got up and 
bent in the same manner and furled, and a storm-jib, with the 
bonnet off, bent and furled to the boom. It was twelve o'clock 
before we got through, and five hours of more exhausting labour 
I never experienced ; and no one of that ship's crew, I will 
venture to say, will ever desire again to unbend and bend five 
large sails in the teeth of a tremendous northwester. Towards 
night a few clouds appeared in the horizon, and, as the gale 
moderated, the usual appearance of driving clouds relieved the 
face of the sky. The fifth day after the commencement of 
the storm, we shook a reef out of each topsail, and set the 
reefed foresail, jib, and spanker, but it was not until after 
eight days of reefed top-sails that we had a whole sail on the 
ship, and then it was quite soon enough, for the captain was 
anxious to make up for leeway, the gale having blown us half 
the distance to the Sandwich Islands. 



SAN FRANCISCO 24 1 

Inch by inch, as fast as the gale would permit, we made 
sail on the ship, for the wind still continued ahead, and we 
had many day's sailing to get back to the longitude we were 
in when the storm took us. For eight days more we beat to 
windward under a stiff top-gallant breeze, when the wind 
shifted and became variable. A light southeaster, to which 
we could carry a reefed topmast studding-sail, did wonders for 
our dead reckoning. 

Friday^ December 4th. After a passage of twenty days, 
we arrived at the mouth of the Bay of San Francisco. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

OUR place of destination had been Monterey, but as we 
were to the northward of it when the wind hauled 
ahead, we made a fair wind for San Francisco. This 
large bay, which lies in latitude 37° 58', was discovered by Sir 
Francis Drake, and by him represented to be (as indeed it is) 
a magnificent bay, containing several good harbours, great 
depth of water, and surrounded by a fertile and finely wooded 
country. About thirty miles from the mouth of the bay, and 
on the southeast side, is a high point, upon which the Presidio 
is built. Behind this point is the little harbour, or bight, 
called Yerba Buena, in which trading-vessels anchor, and, near 
it, the Mission of Dolores. There was no other habitation on 
this side of the bay, except a shanty of rough boards put up 
by a man named Richardson, who was doing a little trading 
between the vessels and the Indians.' Here, at anchor, and 
the only vessel, was a brig under Russian colours, from Sitka, 
in Russian America, which had come down to winter, and to 
take in a supply of tallow and grain, great quantities of which 
latter article are raised in the Missions at the head of the bay. 
The second day after our arrival we went on board the brig, 
it being Sunday, as a matter of curiosity ; and there was enough 
there to gratify it. Though no larger than the Pilgrim, she 
had five or six officers, and a crew of between twenty and 
thirty ; and such a stupid and greasy-looking set, I never saw 
before. Although it was quite comfortable weather and we 
had nothing on but straw hats, shirts, and duck trousers, and 
were bare-footed, they had, every man of them, double-soled 

I The next year Richardson built a one-story adobe house on the same spot, 
which was long afterwards known as the oldest house in the great city of San 
P'rancisco. 

242 



SAN FRANCISCO 243 

boots, coming up to the knees, and well greased ; thick woollen 
trousers, frocks, waistcoats, pea-jackets, woollen caps, and 
everything in true Nova Zembla rig ; and in the warmest days 
they made no change. The clothing of one of these men 
would weigh nearly as much as that of half our crew. They 
had brutish faces, looked like the antipodes of sailors, and ap- 
parently dealt in nothing but grease. They lived upon grease ; 
eat it, drank it, slept in the midst of it, and their clothes were 
covered with it. To a Russian, grease is the greatest luxury. 
They looked with greedy eyes upon the tallow-bags as they 
were taken into the vessel, and, no doubt, would have eaten 
one up whole, had not the officer kept watch over it. The 
grease appeared to fill their pores, and to come out in their 
hair and on their faces. It seems as if it were this saturation 
which makes them stand cold and rain so well. If they were 
to go into a warm climate, they would melt and die of the 
scurvy. 

The vessel was no better than the crew. Everything was 
in the oldest and most inconvenient fashion possible : running 
trusses and lifts on the yards, and large hawser cables, coiled 
all over the decks, and served and parcelled in all directions. 
The topmasts, top-gallant masts, and studding-sail booms were 
nearly black for want of scraping, and the decks would have 
turned the stomach of a man-of-war's-man. The galley was 
down in the forecastle ; and there the crew lived, in the midst 
of the steam and grease of the cooking, in a place as hot as 
an oven, and apparently never cleaned out. Five minutes in 
the forecastle was enough for us, and we were glad to get into 
the open air. We made some trade with them, buying Indian 
curiosities, of which they had a great number ; such as bead- 
work, feathers of birds, fur moccasins, etc. I purchased a 
large robe, made of the skins of some animal, dried and sewed 
nicely together, and covered all over on the outside with thick 
downy feathers, taken from the breasts of various birds, and 
arranged with their different colours so as to make a brilliant 
show. 



244 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

A few days after our arrival the rainy season set in, and for 
three weeks it rained almost every hour, without cessation. 
This was bad for our trade, for the collecting of hides is man- 
aged differently in this port from what it is in any other on the 
coast. The Mission of Dolores, near the anchorage, has no 
trade at all ; but those of San Jose, Santa Clara, and others 
situated on the large creeks or rivers which run into the bay, 
and distant between fifteen and forty miles from the anchor- 
age, do a greater business in hides than any in California. 
Large boats, or launches, manned by Indians, and capable of 
carrying from five to six hundred hides apiece, are attached 
to the Missions, and sent down to the vessels with hides, to 
bring away goods in return. Some of the crews of the ves- 
sels are obliged to go and come in the boats, to look out for 
the hides and goods. These are favourite expeditions with 
the sailors in fine weather ; but now, to be gone three or four 
days, in open boats, in constant rain, without any shelter, and 
with cold food, was hard service. Two of our men went up 
to Santa Clara in one of these boats, and were gone three 
days, during all which time they had a constant rain, and did 
not sleep a wink, but passed three long nights walking fore and 
aft the boat, in the open air. When they got on board they 
were completely exhausted, and took a watch below of twelve 
hours. All the hides, too, that came down in the boats were 
soaked with water, and unfit to put below, so that we were 
obliged to trice them up to dry, in the intervals of sunshine or 
wind, upon all parts of the vessel. We got up tricing-lines 
from the jib-boom-end to each arm of the fore yard, and thence 
to the main and cross-jack yard-arms. Between the tops, too, 
and the mast-heads, from the fore to the main swifters, and 
thence to the mizzen rigging, and in all directions athwart- 
ships, tricing-lines were run, and strung with hides. The 
head stays and guys, and the spritsail yard were lined, and, 
having still more, we got out the swinging-booms, and strung 
them and th5 forward and after guys with hides. The rail, 
fore and aft, the windlass, capstan, the sides of the ship, and 



SAN FRANCISCO 245 

every vacant place on deck, were covered with wet hides, on 
the least sign of an interval for drying. Our ship was nothing 
but a mass of hides, from the cat-harpins to the water's edge, 
and from the jib-boom-end to the taffrail. 

One cold, rainy evening, about eight o'clock, I received 
orders to get ready to start for San Jose at four the next 
morning, in one of these Indian boats, with four days' pro- 
visions. I got my oil-cloth clothes, southwester, and thick 
boots ready, and turned into my hammock early, determined 
to get some sleep in advance, as the boat was to be alongside 
before daybreak. I slept on till all hands were called in the 
morning ; for, fortunately for me, the Indians, intentionally, 
or from mistaking their orders, had gone off alone in the 
night, and were far out of sight. Thus I escaped three or 
four days of very uncomfortable service. 

Four of our men, a few days afterwards, went up in one of 
the quarter-boats to Santa Clara, to carry the agent, and re- 
mained out all night in a drenching rain, in the small boat, in 
which there was not room for them to turn round ; the agent 
having gone up to the Mission and left the men to their fate, 
making no provision for their accommodation, and not even 
sending them anything to eat. After this they had to pull 
thirty miles, and when they got on board were so stiff that 
they could not come up the gangway ladder. This filled up 
the measure of the agent's unpopularity, and never after this 
could he get anything done for him by the crew ; and many 
a delay and vexation, and many a good ducking in the surf, 
did he get to pay up old scores, or " square the yards with the 
bloody quill-driver." 

Having collected nearly all the hides that were to be pro- 
cured, we began our preparations for taking in a supply of 
wood and water, for both of which San Francisco is the best 
place on the coast. A small island, about two leagues from 
the anchorage, called by us, " Wood Island," and by the 
Mexicans '' Isla de los Angeles," was covered with trees to 
the water's edge ; and to this two of our crew, who were 



246 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Kennebec men, and could handle an axe like a plaything, 
were sent every morning to cut wood, with two boys to pile it 
up for them. In about a week they had cut enough to last 
us a year, and the third mate, with myself and three others, 
were sent over in a large, schooner-rigged, open launch, which 
we had hired of the Mission, to take in the wood, and bring it 
to the ship. 

We left the ship about noon, but owing to a strong head 
wind, and a tide which here runs four or five knots, did 
not get into the harbour, formed by two points of the island, 
where the boats lie, until sundown. No sooner had we 
come-to, than a strong southeaster, which had been threaten- 
ing us all day, set in, with heavy rain and a chilly air. We 
were in rather a bad situation ; an open boat, a heavy rain, 
and a long night ; for in winter, in this latitude, it was dark 
nearly fifteen hours. Taking a small skiff which we had 
brought with us, we went ashore, but discovered no shelter, 
for everything was open to the rain ; and, collecting a little 
wood, which we found by lifting up the leaves and brush, and 
a few mussels, we put aboard again, and made the best prepa- 
rations in our power for passing the night. We unbent the 
mainsail, and formed an awning with it over the after part 
of the boat, made a bed of wet logs of wood, and, with our 
jackets on, lay down, about six o'clock, to sleep. Finding the 
rain running down upon us, and our jackets getting wet 
through, and the rough, knotty logs rather indifferent couches, 
we turned out ; and, taking an iron pan which we brought with 
us, we wiped it out dry, put some stones around it, cut the wet 
bark from some sticks, and, striking a light, made a small fire 
in the pan. Keeping some sticks near to dry, and covering 
the whole over with a roof of boards, we kept up a small fire, 
by which we cooked our mussels, and ate them, rather for an 
occupation than from hunger. Still it was not ten o'clock, 
and the night was long before us, when one of the party pro- 
duced an old pack of Spanish cards from his monkey-jacket 
pocket, which we hailed as a great windfall ; and, keeping a 



SAN FRANCISCO 247 

dim, flickering light by our fagots, we played game after game, 
till one or two o'clock, when, becoming really tired, we went 
to our logs again, one sitting up at a time, in turn, to keep 
watch over the fire. Toward morning the rain ceased, and 
the air became sensibly colder, so that we found sleep impos- 
sible, and sat up, watching for daybreak. No sooner was it 
light than we went ashore, and began our preparations for 
loading our vessel. We were not mistaken in the coldness of 
the weather, for a white frost was on the ground, and — a 
thing we had never seen before in California — one or two 
little puddles of fresh water were skimmed over with a thin 
coat of ice. In this state of the weather, and before sunrise, 
in the gray of the morning, we had to wade off, nearly 
up to our hips in water, to load the skiff with the wood by 
armfuls. 

The third mate remained on board the launch, two more 
men stayed in the skiff to load and manage it, and all the water- 
work, as usual, fell upon the two youngest of us ; and there 
we were with frost on the ground, wading forward and back, 
from the beach to the boat, with armfuls of wood, barefooted, 
and our trousers rolled up. When the skiff went off with her 
load, we could only keep our feet from freezing by racing up 
and down the beach on the hard sand, as fast as we could go. 
We were all day at this work, and toward sundown, having 
loaded the vessel as deep as she would bear, we hove up our 
anchor and made sail, beating out of the bay. No sooner had 
we got into the large bay than we found a strong tide setting 
us out to seaward, a thick fog which prevented our seeing the 
ship, and a breeze too light to set us against the tide, for we 
were as deep as a sand-barge. By the utmost exertions, we 
saved ourselves from being carried out to sea, and were glad to 
reach the leewardmost point of the island, where we came-to, 
and prepared to pass another night more uncomfortable than 
the first, for we were loaded up to the gunwale, and had only 
a choice among logs and sticks for a resting-place. The next 
morning we made sail at slack water, with a fair wind, and got 



248 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

on board by eleven o'clock, when all hands were turned-to to 
unload and stow away the wood, which took till night. 

Having now taken in all our wood, the next morning a 
water-party was ordered off with all the casks. From this we 
escaped, having had a pretty good siege with the wooding. 
The water-party were gone three days, during which time 
they narrowly escaped being carried out to sea, and passed 
one day on an island, where one of them shot a deer, great 
numbers of which overrun the islands -and hills of San Fran- 
cisco Bay. 

While not off on these wood and water parties, or up the 
rivers to the Missions, we had easy times on board the ship. 
We were moored, stem and stern, within a cable's length of 
the shore, safe from southeasters, and with little boating to do ; 
and, as it rained nearly all the time, awnings were put over 
the hatchways, and all hands sent down between decks, where 
we were at work, day after day, picking oakum, until we got 
enough to calk the ship all over, and to last the whole voyage. 
Then we made a whole suit of gaskets for the voyage home, a 
pair of wheel-ropes from strips of green hide, great quantities 
of spun-yarn, and everything else that could be made between 
decks. It being now midwinter and in high latitude, the 
nights were very long, so that we were not turned-to until 
seven in the morning, and were obliged to knock off at five 
in the evening, when we got supper ; which gave us nearly 
three hours before eight bells, at which time the watch 
was set. 

As we had now been about a year on the coast, it was time 
to think of the voyage home ; and, knowing that the last two 
or three months of our stay would be very busy ones, and that 
we should never have so good an opportunity to work for our- 
selves as the present, we all employed our evenings in making 
clothes for the passage home, and more especially for Cape 
Horn. As soon as supper was over and the kids cleared 
away, and each man had taken his smoke, we seated ourselves 
on our chests round the lamp, which swung from a beam, and 



SAN FRANCISCO 249 

went to work each in his own way, some making hats, others 
trousers, others jackets, etc., and no one was idle. The boys 
who could not sew well enough to make their own clothes 
laid up grass into sinnet for the men, who sewed for them in 
return. Several of us clubbed together and bought a large 
piece of twilled cotton, which we made into trousers and 
jackets, and, giving them several coats of linseed oil, laid them 
by for Cape Horn. I also sewed and covered a tarpaulin hat, 
thick and strong enough to sit upon, and made myself a com- 
plete suit of flannel underclothing for bad weather. Those 
who had no southwester caps made them ; and several of the 
crew got up for themselves tarpaulin jackets and trousers, lined 
on the inside with flannel. Industry was the order of the day, 
and every one did something for himself ; for we knew that as 
the season advanced, and we went further south, we should 
have no evenings to work in. 

Friday, December 2^th. This day was Christmas ; and, as 
it rained all day long, and there were no hides to take in, and 
nothing especial to do, the captain gave us a holiday (the first 
we had had, except Sundays, since leaving Boston), and plum- 
duff for dinner. The Russian brig, following the Old Style, 
had celebrated their Christmas eleven days before, when they 
had a grand blow-out, and (as our men said) drank, in the 
forecastle, a barrel of gin, ate up a bag of tallow, and made a 
soup of the skin. 

Sunday, December 2yth. We had now finished all our 
business at this port, and, it being Sunday, we unmoored ship 
and got under way, firing a salute to the Russian brig, and 
another to the Presidio, which were both answered. The 
commandante of the Presidio, Don Guadalupe Vallejo, a young 
man, and the most popular, among the Americans and English, 
of any man in California, was on board when we got under way. 
He spoke English very well, and was suspected of being favour- 
ably inclined to foreigners. 

We sailed down this magnificent bay with a light wind, the 
tide, which was running out, carrying us at the rate of four or 



2 50 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

five knots. It was a fine day ; the first of entire sunshine we 
had had for more than a month. We passed directly under 
the high cUff on which the Presidio is built, and stood into the 
middle of the bay, from whence we could see small bays mak- 
ing up into the interior, large and beautifully wooded islands, 
and the mouths of several small rivers. If California ever be- 
comes a prosperous country, this bay will be the center of its 
prosperity. The abundance of wood and water ; the extreme 
fertility of its shores ; the excellence of its climate, which is as 
near to being perfect as any in the world ; and its facilities for 
navigation, affording the best anchoring-grounds in the whole 
western coast of America, — all fit it for a place of great im- 
portance. 

The tide leaving us, we came to anchor near the mouth of 
the bay, under a high and beautifully sloping hill, upon which 
herds of hundreds and hundreds of red deer, and the stag, with 
his high branching antlers, were bounding about, looking at us 
for a moment, and then starting off, affrighted at the noises 
which we made for the purpose of seeing the variety of their 
beautiful attitudes and motions. 

At midnight, the tide having turned, we hove up our anchor 
and stood out of the bay, with a fine starry heaven above us, 
— the first we had seen for many weeks. Before the light 
northerly winds, which blow here with the regularity of trades, 
we worked slowly along, and made Point Ano Nuevo, the 
northerly point of the Bay of Monterey, on Monday afternoon. 
We spoke, going in, the brig Diana, of the Sandwich Islands, 
from the northwest coast, last from Sitka. She was off the 
point at the same time with us, but did not get in to the anchor- 
ing-ground until an hour or two after us. It was ten o'clock on 
Tuesday morning when we came to anchor. Monterey looked 
just as it did when I saw it last, which was eleven months be- 
fore, in the brig Pilgrim. The pretty lawn on which it stands, 
as green as sun and rain could make it ; the pine wood on the 
south ; the small river on the north side ; the adobe houses, 
with their white walls and red-tiled roofs dotted about on the 



MONTEREY REVISITED 25 I 

green ; the low, white Presidio, with its soiled tri-coloured flag 
flying, and the discordant din of drums and trumpets of the 
noon parade, — all brought up the scene we had witnessed 
here with so much pleasure nearly a year before, when com- 
ing from a long voyage, and from our unprepossessing recep- 
tion at Santa Barbara. It seemed almost like coming to 
a home. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

THE only other vessel in the port was a Russian govern- 
ment bark from Sitka, mounting eight guns (four of 
which we found to be quakers), and having on board 
the ex-governor, who was going in her to Mazatlan, and thence 
overland to Vera Cruz. He offered to take letters, and deliver 
them to the American consul at Vera Cruz, whence they could 
be easily forwarded to the United States. We accordingly 
made up a packet of letters, almost every one writing, and 
dating them *' January ist, 1836." The governor was true to 
his promise, and they all reached Boston before the middle 
of March ; the shortest communication ever yet made across 
the country. 

The brig Pilgrim had been lying in Monterey through the 
latter part of November, according to orders, waiting for us. 
Day after day Captain Faucon went up to the hill to look out 
for us, and at last gave us up, thinking we must have gone down 
in the gale which we experienced off Point Conception, and 
which had blown with great fury over the whole coast, driving 
ashore several vessels in the snuggest ports. An English brig, 
which had put into San Francisco, lost both her anchors, the 
Rosa was driven upon a mud bank in San Diego, and the Pil- 
grim, with great difficulty, rode out the gale in Monterey, 
with three anchors ahead. She sailed early in December for 
San Diego and intermedios. 

As we were to be here over Sunday, and Monterey was the 
best place to go ashore on the whole coast, and we had had no 
liberty-day for nearly three months, every one was for going 
ashore. On Sunday morning as soon as the decks were washed, 
and we were through breakfast, those who had obtained liberty 
began to clean themselves, as it is called, to go ashore. Buckets 

252 



MONTEREY REVISITED 253 

of fresh water, cakes of soap, large coarse towels, and we went 
to work scrubbing one another, on the forecastle. Having 
gone through this, the next thing was to step into the head, 
— one on each side, — with a bucket apiece, and duck one an- 
other, by drawing up water and heaving over each other, while 
we were stripped to a pair of trousers. Then came the rigging- 
up. The usual outfit of pumps, white stockings, loose white 
duck trousers, blue jackets, clean checked shirts, black ker- 
chiefs, hats well varnished, with a fathom of black ribbon over 
the left eye, a silk handkerchief flying from the outside jacket 
pocket, and four or five dollars tied up in the back of the 
neckerchief, and we were "all right." One of the quarter- 
boats pulled us ashore, and we steamed up to the town. I 
tried to find the church, in order to see the worship, but was 
told that there was no service, except a mass early in the morn- 
ing ; so we went about the town, visiting the Americans and 
English, and the Mexicans whom we had known when we were 
here before. Toward noon we procured horses, and rode out 
to the Carmel Mission, which is about a league from the town, 
where we got something in the way of a dinner — beef, eggs, 
frijoles, tortillas, and some middling wine — from the mayor- 
domo, who, of course, refused to make any charge, as it was 
the Lord's gift, yet received our present, as a gratuity, with a 
low bow, a touch of the hat, and *' Dios se lo pague." 

After this repast we had a fine run, scouring the country 
on our fleet horses, and came into town soon after sundown. 
Here we found our companions, who had refused to go to ride 
with us, thinking that a sailor has no more business with a 
horse than a fish has with a balloon. They were moored, stem 
and stern, in a grog-shop, making a great noise, with a crowd 
of Indians and hungry half-breeds about them, and with a fair 
prospect of being stripped and dirked, or left to pass the night 
in the calabozo. With a great deal of trouble we managed to 
get them down to the boats, though not without many angry 
looks and interferences from the Mexicans, who had marked 
them out for their prey. The Diana's crew — a set of worth- 



2 54 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

less outcasts who had been picked up at the islands from the 
refuse of whale-ships — were all as drunk as beasts, and had a 
set-to on the beach with their captain, who was in no better 
state than themselves. They swore they would not go aboard, 
and went back to the town, were robbed and beaten, and lodged 
in the calabozo, until the next day, when the captain brought 
them out. Our forecastle, as usual after a liberty-day, was a 
scene of tumult all night long, from the drunken ones. They 
had just got to sleep toward morning, when they were turned- 
up with the rest, and kept at work all day in the water, carry- 
ing hides, their heads aching so that they could hardly stand. 
This is sailor's pleasure. 

Nothing worthy of remark happened while we were here, 
except a little boxing-match on board our own ship, which 
gave us something to talk about. Our broad-backed, big- 
headed Cape Cod boy, about sixteen years old, had been 
playing the bully, for the whole voyage, over a slender, deli- 
cate-looking boy from one of the Boston schools, and over 
whom he had much the advantage in strength, age, and ex- 
perience in the ship's duty, for this was the first time the 
Boston boy had been on salt water. The latter, however, had 
"picked up his crumbs," was learning his duty, and getting 
strength and confidence daily, and began to assert his rights 
against his oppressor. Still, the other was his master, and, 
by his superior strength, always tackled with him and threw 
him down. One afternoon, before we were turned-to, these 
boys got into a violent squabble in the between-decks, when 
George (the Boston boy) said he would fight Nat if he could 
have fair play. The chief mate heard the noise, dove down the 
hatchway, hauled them both up on deck, and told them to 
shake hands and have no more trouble for the voyage, or else 
they should fight till one gave in for beaten. Finding neither 
willing to make an offer of reconciliation, he called all hands 
up (for the captain was ashore, and he could do as he chose 
aboard), ranged the crew in the waist, marked a line on the 
deck, brought the two boys up to it, making them "toe 



A SET-TO 255 

the mark " ; then made the bight of a rope fast to a belaying- 
pin, and stretched it across the deck, bringing it just above 
their waists. " No striking below the rope ! " And there 
they stood, one on each side of it, face to face, and went at 
it hke two game-cocks. The Cape Cod boy, Nat, put in his 
double-fisters, starting the blood, and bringing the black-and- 
blue spots all over the face and arms of the other, whom we 
expected to see give in every moment ; but the more he was 
hurt, the better he fought. Again and again he was knocked 
nearly down, but up he came again and faced the mark, as 
bold as a lion, again to take the heavy blows, which sounded 
so as to make one's heart turn with pity for him. At length 
he came up to the mark the last time, his shirt torn from his 
body, his face covered with blood and bruises, and his eyes 
flashing fire, and swore he would stand there until one or the 
other was killed, and set-to like a young fury. " Hurrah in 
the bow ! " said the men, cheering him on. '' Never say die, 
while there 's a shot in the locker ! " Nat tried to close with 
him, knowing his advantage, but the mate stopped that, say- 
ing there should be fair play, and no fingering. Nat then 
came up to the mark, but looked white about the mouth, and 
his blows were not given with half the spirit of his first. 
Something was the matter. I was not sure whether he was 
cowed, or being good-natured, he did not care to beat the boy 
any more. At all events he faltered. He had always been 
master, and had nothing to gain and everything to lose ; 
while the other fought for honour and freedom, and under a 
sense of wrong. It was soon over. Nat gave in, — ap- 
parently not much hurt, — and never afterwards tried to act 
the bully over the boy. We took George forward, washed him 
in the deck-tub, complimented his pluck, and from this time he 
became somebody on board, having fought himself into notice. 
Mr. Brown's plan had a good effect, for there was no more 
quarrelling among the boys for the rest of the voyage. 

Wednesday, January 6th, i8j6. Set sail from Monterey, 
with a number of Mexicans as passengers, and shaped our 



2 56 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

course for Santa Barbara. The Diana went out of the bay in 
company with us, but parted from us off Point Pinos, being 
bound to the Sandwich Islands. We had a smacking breeze 
for several hours, and went along at a great rate until night, 
when it died away, as usual, and the land-breeze set in, which 
brought us upon a taut bowline. Among our passengers was a 
young man who was a good representation of a decayed gentle- 
man. He reminded me much of some of the characters in 
Gil Bias. He was of the aristocracy of the country, his family 
being of pure Spanish blood, and once of considerable import- 
ance in Mexico. His father had been a governor of the 
province, and, having amassed a large property, settled at San 
Diego, where he built a large house with a court-yard in front, 
kept a retinue of Indians, and set up for the grandee of that 
part of the country. His son was sent to Mexico, where he 
received an education, and went into the first society of the 
capital. Misfortune, extravagance, and the want of any manner 
of getting interest on money, soon ate the estate up, and Don 
Juan Bandini returned from Mexico accomplished, poor, and 
proud, and without any office or occupation, to lead the life of 
most young men of the better families, — dissipated and ex- 
travagant when the means are at hand ; ambitious at heart, and 
impotent in act ; often pinched for bread ; keeping up an appear- 
ance of style, when their poverty is known to each half -naked 
Indian boy in the street, and standing in dread of every small 
trader and shopkeeper in the place. He had a slight and ele- 
gant figure, moved gracefully, danced and waltzed beautifully, 
spoke good Castilian, with a pleasant and refined voice, and 
accent, and had, throughout, the bearing of a man of birth 
and figure. Yet here he was, with his passage given him (as 
I afterwards learned), for he had not the means of paying 
for it, and living upon the charity of our agent. He was polite 
to every one, spoke to the sailors, and gave four reals — I dare 
say the last he had in his pocket — to the steward, who waited 
upon him. I could not but feel a pity for him, especially when 
I saw him by the side of his fellow-passenger and townsman, 



A DECAYED GENTLEMAN 257 

a fat, coarse, vulgar, pretentious fellow of a Yankee trader, 
who had made money in San Diego, and was eating out the 
vitals of the Bandinis, fattening upon their extravagance, grind- 
ing them in their poverty ; having mortgages on their lands, 
forestalling their cattle, and already making an inroad upon 
their jewels, which were their last hope. 

Don Juan had with him a retainer, who was as much like 
many of the characters in Gil Bias as his master. He called 
himself a private secretary, though there was no writing for 
him to do, and he lived in the steerage with the carpenter and 
sailmaker. He was certainly a character ; could read and write 
well ; spoke good Spanish ; had been over the greater part of 
Spanish America, and lived in every possible situation, and 
served in every conceivable capacity, though generally in that 
of confidential servant to some man of figure. I cultivated 
this man's acquaintance, and during the five weeks that he 
was with us, — for he remained on board until we arrived at 
San Diego, — I gained a greater knowledge of the state of 
political parties in Mexico, and the habits and affairs of the 
different classes of society, than I could have learned from 
almost any one else. He took great pains in correcting my 
Spanish, and supplying me with colloquial phrases, and com- 
mon terms and exclamations, in speaking. He lent me a file 
of late newspapers from the city of Mexico, which were full 
of the triumphal reception of Santa Ana, who had just re- 
turned from Tampico after a victory, and with the preparations 
for his expedition against the Texans. "Viva Santa Ana! " 
was the byword everywhere, and it had even reached Cali- 
fornia, though there were still many here, among whom was 
Don Juan Bandini, who were opposed to his government, and 
intriguing to bring in Bustamente. Santa Ana, they said, was 
for breaking down the Missions ; or, as they termed it, " Santa 
Ana no quiere religion." Yet I had no doubt that the office of 
administrador of San Diego would reconcile Don Juan to any 
dynasty, and any state of the church. In these papers, too, I 
found scraps of American and English news ; but which were 



258 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

SO unconnected, and I was so ignorant of everything preced- 
ing them for eighteen months past, that they only awakened 
a curiosity which they could not satisfy. One article spoke 
of Taney as Justicia Mayor de los Estados Unidos (what had 
become of Marshall ? was he dead, or banished ?), and another 
made known, by news received from Vera Cruz, that " El 
Vizconde Melbourne" had returned to the office of "primer 
ministro," in place of Sir Roberto Peel. (Sir Robert Peel had 
been minister, then ? and where were Earl Grey and the 
Duke of Wellington ?) Here were the outlines of grand politi- 
cal overturns, the filling up of which I was left to imagine at 
my leisure. 

The second morning after leaving Monterey, we were off 
Point Conception. It was a bright, sunny day, and the wind, 
though strong, was fair ; and everything was in striking con- 
trast with our experience in the same place two months before, 
when we were drifting off from a northwester under a fore 
and main spencer. " Sail ho ! " cried a man who was rigging 
out a top-gallant studding-sail boom. — "Where away.?" — 
" Weather beam, sir ! " and in a few minutes a full-rigged brig 
was seen standing out from under Point Conception. The 
studding-sail halyards were let go, and the yards boom-ended, 
the after yards braced aback, and we waited her coming down. 
She rounded to, backed her main topsail, and showed her 
decks full of men, four guns on a side, hammock nettings, 
and everything man-of-war fashion, except that there was no 
boatswain's whistle, and no uniforms on the quarter-deck. A 
short, square-built man, in a rough gray jacket, with a speaking- 
trumpet in hand, stood in the weather hammock nettings. 
" Ship ahoy ! " — " Hallo ! " — " What ship is that, pray ? " — 
— " Alert." — " Where are you from, pray } " etc. She 
proved to be the brig Convoy, from the Sandwich Islands, 
engaged in otter-hunting among the islands which lie along 
the coast. Her armament was because of her being a contra- 
bandista. The otter are very numerous among these islands, 
and, being of great value, the government require a heavy 



A FANDANGO 259 

sum for a license to hunt them, and lay a high duty upon every 
one shot or carried out of the country. This vessel had no 
license, and paid no duty, besides being engaged in smuggling 
goods on board other vessels trading on the coast, and belong- 
ing to the same owners in Oahu. Our captain told him to 
look out for the Mexicans, but he said they had not any armed 
vessel of his size in the whole Pacific. This was without 
doubt the same vessel that showed herself off Santa Barbara 
a few months before. These vessels frequently remain on the 
coast for years, without making port, except at the islands for 
wood and water, and an occasional visit to Oahu for a new 
outfit. 

Sunday y J miliary loth. Arrived at Santa Barbara, and 
on the following Wednesday slipped our cable and went to 
sea, on account of a southeaster. Returned to our anchorage 
the next day. We were the only vessel in the port. The 
Pilgrim had passed through the Canal and hove-to off the town, 
nearly six weeks before, on her passage down from Monterey, 
and was now at the leeward. She heard here of our safe 
arrival at San Francisco. 

Great preparations were making on shore for the marriage 
of our agent, who was to marry Dona Anita de la Guerra de 
Noriego y Corillo, youngest daughter of Don Antonio Noriego, 
the grandee of the place, and the head of the first family in 
California. Our steward was ashore three days, making pastry 
and cake, and some of the best of our stores were sent off with 
him. On the day appointed for the wedding, we took the 
captain ashore in the gig, and had orders to come for him at 
night, with leave to go up to the house and see the fandango. 
Returning on board, we found preparations making for a salute. 
Our guns were loaded and run out, men appointed to each, 
cartridges served out, matches lighted, and all the flags ready 
to be run up. I took my place at the starboard after-gun, and 
we all waited for the signal from on shore. At ten o'clock 
the bride went up with her sister to the confessional, dressed 
in deep black. Nearly an hour intervened, when the great 



26o TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

doors of the Mission church opened, the bells rang out a loud, 
discordant peal, the private signal for us was run up by the 
captain ashore, the bride, dressed in complete white, came out 
of the church with the bridegroom, followed by a long proces- 
sion. Just as she stepped from the church door, a small 
white cloud issued from the bows of our ship, which was full 
in sight, the loud report echoed among the surrounding hills 
and over the bay, and instantly the ship was dressed in flags 
and pennants from stem to stern. Twenty-three guns fol- 
lowed in regular succession, with an interval of fifteen seconds 
between each, when the cloud blew off, and our ship lay 
dressed in her colours all day. At sundown another salute of 
the same number of guns was fired, and all the flags run down. 
This we thought was pretty well — a gun every fifteen sec- 
onds — for a merchantman with only four guns and a dozen 
or twenty men. 

After supper the gig's crew were called, and we rowed 
ashore, dressed in our uniform, beached the boat, and went up 
to the fandango. The bride's father's house was the principal 
one in the place, with a large court in front, upon which a tent 
was built, capable of containing several hundred people. As 
we drew near, we heard the accustomed sound of violins and 
guitars, and saw a great motion of the people within. Going 
in, we found nearly all the people of the town — men, women, 
and children — collected and crowded together, leaving barely 
room for the dancers ; for on these occasions no invitations 
are given, but every one is expected to come, though there is 
always a private entertainment within the house for particular 
friends. The old women sat down in rows, clapping their 
hands to the music, and applauding the young ones. The 
music was lively, and among the tunes we recognized several 
of our popular airs, which we, without doubt, have taken from 
the Spanish. In the dancing I was much disappointed. The 
women stood upright, with their hands down by their sides, 
their eyes fixed upon the ground before them, and slided about 
without any perceptible means of motion ; for their feet were 



A FANDANGO 261 

invisible, the hem of their dresses forming a circle about them, 
reaching to the ground. They looked as grave as though 
they were going through some religious ceremony, their faces 
as little excited as their limbs ; and, on the whole, instead of 
the spirited, fascinating Spanish dances which I had expected, 
I found the Calif ornian fandango, on the part of the women 
at least, a lifeless affair. The men did better. They danced 
with grace and spirit, moving in circles round their nearly 
stationary partners, and showing their figures to advantage. 

A great deal was said about our friend Don Juan Bandini, 
and when he did appear, which was toward the close of the 
evening, he certainly gave us the most graceful dancing that 
I had ever seen. He was dressed in white pantaloons, neatly 
made, a short jacket of dark silk, gayly figured, white stock- 
ings and thin morocco slippers upon his very small feet. His 
slight and graceful figure was well adapted to dancing, and he 
moved about with the grace and daintiness of a young fawn. 
An occasional touch of the toe to the ground seemed all that 
was necessary to give him a long interval of motion in the air. 
At the same time he was not fantastic or flourishing, but ap- 
peared to be rather repressing a strong tendency to motion. 
He was loudly applauded, and danced frequently toward the 
close of the evening. After the supper, the waltzing began, 
which was confined to a very few of the "gente de razon," 
and was considered a high accomplishment, and a mark of 
aristocracy. Here, too, Don Juan figured greatly, waltzing 
with the sister of the bride (Dona Angustia, a handsome 
woman and a general favourite) in a variety of beautiful fig- 
ures, which lasted as much as half an hour, no one else taking 
the floor. They were repeatedly and loudly applauded, the 
old men and women jumping out of their seats in admiration, 
and the young people waving their hats and handkerchiefs. 
The great amusement of the evening — owing to its being the 
Carnival — was the breaking of eggs filled with cologne, or 
other essences, upon the heads of the company. The women 
bring a great number of these secretly about them, and the 



262 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

amusement is to break one upon the head of a gentleman when 
his back is turned. He is bound in gallantry to find out the 
lady and return the compliment, though it must not be done 
if the person sees you. A tall, stately Don, with immense 
gray whiskers, and a look of great importance, was standing 
before me, when I felt a light hand on my shoulder, and, turn- 
ing round, saw Dona Angustia (whom we all knew, as she had 
been up to Monterey, and down again, in the Alert), with her 
finger upon her lip, motioning me gently aside. I stepped 
back a little, when she went up behind the Don, and with one 
hand knocked off his huge sombrero, and at the same instant, 
with the other, broke the egg upon his head, and, springing 
behind me, was out of sight in a moment. The Don turned 
slowly round, the cologne running down his face and over his 
clothes, and a loud laugh breaking out from every quarter. 
He looked round in vain for some time, until the direction of 
so many laughing eyes showed him the fair offender. She 
was his niece, and a great favourite with him, so old Don 
Domingo had to join in the laugh. A great many such tricks 
were played, and many a war of sharp manoeuvring was car- 
ried on between couples of the younger people, and at every 
successful exploit a general laugh was raised. 

Another of their games I was for some time at a loss 
about. A pretty young girl was dancing, named — after what 
would appear to us an almost sacrilegious custom of the 
country — Espiritu Santo, when a young man went behind 
her and placed his hat directly upon her head, letting it fall 
down over her eyes, and sprang back among the crowd. She 
danced for some time with the hat on, when she threw it off, 
which called forth a general shout, and the young man was 
obliged to go out upon the floor and pick it up. Some of the 
ladies, upon whose heads hats had been placed, threw them 
off at once, and a few kept them on throughout the dance, and 
took them off at the end, and held them out in their hands, 
when the owner stepped out, bowed, and took it from them. 
I soon began to suspect the meaning of the thing, and was 



A FANDANGO 263 

afterwards told that it was a compliment, and an offer to be- 
come the lady's gallant for the rest of the evening, and to wait 
upon her home. If the hat was thrown off, the offer was 
refused, and the gentleman was obliged to pick up his hat 
amid a general laugh. Much amusement was caused some- 
times by gentlemen putting hats on the ladies' heads, without 
permitting them to see whom it was done by. This obliged 
them to throw them off, or keep them on at a venture, and 
when they came to discover the owner the laugh was turned 
upon one or the other. 

The captain sent for us about ten o'clock, and we went 
aboard in high spirits, having enjoyed the new scene much, 
and were of great importance among the crew, from having so 
much to tell, and from the prospect of going every night until 
it was over ; for these fandangos generally last three days. 
The next day, two of us were sent up to the town, and took 
care to come back by way of Sefior Noriego's, and take a look 
into the booth. The musicians were again there, upon their 
platform, scraping and twanging away, and a few people, ap- 
parently of the lower classes, were dancing. The dancing is 
kept up, at intervals, throughout the day, but the crowd, the 
spirit, and the elite come in at night. The next night, which 
was the last, we went ashore in the same manner, until we got 
almost tired of the monotonous twang of the instruments, 
the drawling sounds which the women kept up as an accom- 
paniment, and the slapping of the hands in time with the 
music, in place of castanets. We found ourselves as great ob- 
jects of attention as any persons or anything at the place. Our 
sailor dresses — and we took great pains to have them neat and 
ship-shape — were much admired, and we were invited, from 
every quarter, to give them an American dance ; but after the 
ridiculous figure some of our countrymen cut in dancing after 
the Mexicans, we thought it best to leave it to their imagma- 
tions. Our agent, with a tight, black, swallow-tailed coat just 
imported from Boston, a high stiff cravat, looking as if he had 
been pinned and skewered, with only his feet and hands left 



264 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

free, took the floor just after Bandini, and we thought they 
had had enough of Yankee grace. 

The last night they kept it up in great style, and were 
getting into a high-go, when the captain called us off to go 
aboard, for, it being southeaster season, he was afraid to remain 
on shore long ; and it was well he did not, for that night we 
slipped our cables, as a crowner to our fun ashore, and stood 
off before a southeaster, which lasted twelve hours, and re- 
turned to our anchorage the next day. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

MONDAY, February ist. After having been in port 
twenty-one days, we sailed for San Pedro, where we 
arrived on the following day, having gone "all fluk- 
ing," with the weather clew of the mainsail hauled up, the yards 
braced in a little, and the lower studding-sail just drawing ; 
the wind hardly shifting a point during the passage. Here we 
found the Ayacucho and the Pilgrim, which last we had not 
seen since the nth of September, — nearly five months ; and 
I really felt something like an affection for the old brig which 
had been my first home, and in which I had spent nearly a 
year, and got the first rough and tumble of a sea life. She, 
too, was associated in my mind with Boston, the wharf from 
which we sailed, anchorage in the stream, leave-taking, and all 
such matters, which were now to me like small links connect- 
ing me with another world, which I had once been in, and 
which, please God, I might yet see again. I went on board 
the first night, after supper ; found the old cook in the galley, 
playing upon the fife which I had given him as a parting 
present ; had a hearty shake of the hand from him and dove 
down into the forecastle, where were my old shipmates, the 
same as ever, glad to see me ; for they had nearly given us up 
as lost, especially when they did not find us in Santa Barbara. 
They had been at San Diego last, had been lying at San Pedro 
nearly a month, and had received three thousand hides from 
the pueblo. But — 

" Sic vos non vobis " — 

these we took from her the next day, which filled us up, and 
we both got under way on the 4th, she bound to San Francisco 
again, and we to San Diego, where we arrived on the 6th. 

265 



266 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

We were always glad to see San Diego ; it being the depot, 
and a snug little place, and seeming quite like home, especially 
to me, who had spent a summer there. There was no vessel 
in port, the Rosa having sailed for Valparaiso and Cadiz, and 
the Catalina for Callao, nearly a month before. We discharged 
our hides, and in four days were ready to sail again for the 
windward; and, to our great joy — for the last time! Over 
thirty thousand hides had been already collected, cured, and 
stowed away in the house, which, together with what we should 
collect, and the Pilgrim would bring down from San Francisco, 
would make out our cargo. The thought that we were actually 
going up for the last time, and that the next time we went 
round San Diego point it would be " homeward bound," brought 
things so near a close that we felt as though we were just 
there, though it must still be the greater part of a year before 
we could see Boston. 

I spent one evening, as had been my custom, at the oven 
with the Sandwich Islanders ; but it was far from being the 
usual noisy, laughing time. It has been said that the greatest 
curse to each of the South Sea Islands was the first man 
who discovered it ; and every one who knows anything of the 
history of our commerce in those parts knows how much truth 
there is in this ; and that the white men, with their vices, have 
brought in diseases before unknown to the islanders, which 
are now sweeping off the native population of the Sandwich 
Islands at the rate of one fortieth of the entire population 
annually. They seem to be a doomed people. The curse of 
a people calling themselves Christians seems to follow them 
everywhere ; and even here, in this obscure place, lay two 
young islanders, whom I had left strong, active young men, in 
the vigour of health, wasting away under a disease which they 
would never have known but for their intercourse with people 
from Christian America and Europe. One of them was not so 
ill, and was moving about, smoking his pipe, and talking, and 
trying to keep up his spirits ; but the other, who was my friend 
and aikane, Hope, was the most dreadful object I had ever seen 



A VICTIM 267 

in my life, — his eyes sunken and dead, his cheeks fallen in 
against his teeth, his hands looking like claws ; a dreadful cough, 
which seemed to rack his whole shattered system, a hollow, 
whispering voice, and an entire inability to move himself. There 
he lay, upon a mat, on the ground, which was the only floor of 
the oven, with no medicine, no comforts, and no one to care 
for or help him but a few Kanakas, who were willing enough, 
but could do nothing. The sight of him made me sick and 
faint. Poor fellow ! During the four months that I lived 
upon the beach, we were continually together, in work, and in 
our excursions in the woods and upon the water. I felt a strong 
affection for him, and preferred him to any of my own country- 
men there ; and I believe there was nothing which he would 
not have done for me. When I came into the oven he looked 
at me, held out his hand, and said, in a low voice, but with a 
delightful smile, "Aloha, Aikane ! Aloha nui! " I comforted 
him as well as I could, and promised to ask the captain to help 
him from the medicine-chest, and told him I had no doubt the 
captain would do what he could for him, as he had worked 
in our employ for several years, both on shore and aboard 
our vessels on the coast. I went aboard and turned into my 
hammock, but I could not sleep. 

Thinking, from my education, that I must have some knowl- 
edge of medicine, the Kanakas had insisted upon my examin- 
ing him carefully ; and it was not a sight to be forgotten. 
One of our crew, an old man-of-war's-man of twenty years' 
standing, who had seen sin and suffering in every shape, and 
whom I afterwards took to see Hope, said it was dreadfully 
worse than anything he had ever seen, or even dreamed of. 
He was horror-struck, as his countenance showed ; yet he had 
been among the worst cases in our naval hospitals. I could 
not get the thought of the poor fellow out of my head all 
night, — his dreadful suffering, and his apparently inevitable 
horrible end. 

The next day I told Captain Thompson of Hope's state, 
and asked him if he would be so kind as to go and see him. 



268 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

" What ? a d d Kanaka ? " 

<< Yes, sir," said I; "but he has worked four years for 
our vessels, and had been in the employ of our owners, both 
on shore and aboard." 

" Oh ! he be d d ! " said the captain, and walked off. 

This man died afterwards of a fever on the deadly coast of 
Sumatra ; and God grant he had better care taken of him in 
his sufferings than he ever gave to any one else. 

Finding nothing was to be got from the captain, I consulted 
an old shipmate, who had much experience in these matters, 
and got a recipe from him, which he kept by him. With 
this I went to the mate, and told him the case. Mr. Brown 
had been intrusted with the general care of the medicine-chest, 
and although a driving fellow, and a taut hand in a watch, he 
had good feelings, and was inclined to be kind to the sick. 
He said that Hope was not strictly one of the crew, but, as he 
was in our employ when taken sick, he should have the medi- 
cines ; and he got them and gave them to me, with leave to 
go ashore at night. Nothing could exceed the delight of the 
Kanakas, when I came, bringing the medicines. All their 
terms of affection and gratitude were spent upon me, and in a 
sense wasted (for I could not understand half of them), yet 
they made all known by their manner. Poor Hope was so 
much revived at the bare thought of anything being done for 
him that he seemed already stronger and better. I knew he 
must die as he was, and he could but die under the medicines, 
and any chance was worth running. An oven exposed to 
every wind and change of weather is no place to take calomel ; 
but nothing else would do, and strong remedies must be used, 
or he was gone. The applications, internal and external, were 
powerful, and I gave him strict directions to keep warm and 
sheltered, telling him it was his only chance for life. Twice 
after this, I visited him, having only time to run up, while 
waiting in the boat. He promised to take his medicines regu- 
larly while we were up the coast, until we returned, and in- 
sisted upon it that he was doing better. 



CALIFORNIA RANGERS — BEACH-COMBERS 269 

We got under way on the loth, bound up to San Pedro, 
and had three days of calm and head winds, making but little 
progress. On the fourth, we took a stiff southeaster, which 
obliged us to reef our topsails. While on the yard, we saw a 
sail on the weather bow, and in about half an hour passed the 
Ayacucho, under double-reefed topsails, beating down to San 
Diego. Arrived at San Pedro on the fourth day, and came-to 
in the old place, a league from shore, with no other vessel in 
port, and the prospect of three weeks or more of dull life, roll- 
ing goods up a slippery hill, carrying hides on our heads over 
sharp stones, and, perhaps, slipping for a southeaster. 

There was but one man in the only house here, and him I 
shall always remember as a good specimen of a California 
ranger. He had been a tailor in Philadelphia, and, getting 
intemperate and in debt, joined a trapping party, and went to 
the Columbia River, and thence down to Monterey, where he 
spent everything, left his party, and came to the Pueblo de los 
Angeles to work at his trade. Here he went dead to leeward 
among the pulperias, gambling-rooms, etc., and came down to 
San Pedro to be moral by being out of temptation. He had 
been in the house several weeks, working hard at his trade, 
upon orders which he had brought with him, and talked much 
of his resolution, and opened his heart to us about his past 
life. After we had been here some time, he started off one 
morning, in fine spirits, well dressed, to carry the clothes which 
he had been making to the pueblo, and saying that he would 
bring back his money and some fresh orders the next day. 
The next day came, and a week passed, and nearly a fortnight, 
when one day, going ashore, we saw a tall man, who looked 
like our friend the tailor, getting out of the back of an Indian's 
cart, which had just come down from the pueblo. He stood 
for the house, but we bore up after him ; when, finding that we 
were overhauling him, he hove-to and spoke us. Such a sight ! 
Barefooted, with an old pair of trousers tied round his waist by 
a piece of green hide, a soiled cotton shirt, and a torn Indian 
hat; "cleaned out" to the last real, and completely "used 



270 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

up." He confessed the whole matter; acknowledged that he 
was on his back ; and now he had a prospect of a fit of the 
horrors for a week, and of being worse than useless for months. 
This is a specimen of the life of half of the Americans and 
English who are adrift along the coasts of the Pacific and its 
islands, — commonly called "beach-combers." One of the same 
stamp was Russell, who was master of the hide-house at San 
Diego while I was there, but had been afterwards dismissed 
for his misconduct. He spent his own money, and nearly all 
the stores among the half-bloods upon the beach, and went up 
to the Presidio, where he lived the life of a desperate ''loafer," 
until some rascally deed sent him off "between two days," 
with men on horse-back, dogs, and Indians in full cry after 
him, among the hills. One night he burst into our room at 
the hide-house, breathless, pale as a ghost, covered with mud, 
and torn by thorns and briers, nearly naked, and begged for a 
crust of bread, saying he had neither eaten nor slept for three 
days. Here was the great Mr. Russell, who a month before 
was ''DonTomas," " Capitan de la playa," "Maestro de la 
casa," etc., begging food and shelter of Kanakas and sailors. 
He stayed with us till he had given himself up, and was 
dragged off to the calabozo. 

Another, and a more amusing, specimen was one whom we 
saw at San Francisco. He had been a lad on board the ship 
California, in one of her first voyages, and ran away and com- 
menced ranchero, gambling, stealing horses, etc. He worked 
along up to San Francisco, and was living on a rancho near 
there while we were in port. One morning, when we went 
ashore in the boat, we found him at the landing-place, dressed 
in California style, — a wide hat, faded velveteen trousers, and 
a blanket thrown over his shoulders, — and wishing to go off 
in the boat, saying he was going to pasear with our captain a 
little. We had many doubts of the reception he would meet 
with ; but he seemed to think himself company for any one. 
We took him aboard, landed him at the gangway, and went 
about our work, keeping an eye upon the quarter-deck, where 



CALIFORNIA RANGERS — BEACH-COMBERS 2/1 

the captain was walking. The lad went up to him with com- 
plete assurance, and, raising his hat, wished him a good after- 
noon. Captain Thompson turned round, looked at him from 
head to foot, and, saying coolly, " Hallo ! who the hell are 
you .? " kept on his walk. This was a rebuff not to be mis- 
taken, and the joke passed about among the crew by winks 
and signs at different parts of the ship. Finding himself dis- 
appointed at headquarters, he edged along forward to the mate, 
who was overseeing some work upon the forecastle, and tried 
to begin a yarn ; but it would not do. The mate had seen 
the reception he had met with aft, and would have no cast-off 
company. The second mate was aloft, and the third mate and 
myself were painting the quarter boat, which hung by the 
davits, so he betook himself to us ; but we looked at each 
other, and the officer was too busy to say a word. From us, 
he went to one and another of the crew, but the joke had got 
before him, and he found everybody busy and silent. Look- 
ing over the rail a few moments afterward, we saw him at the 
galley-door talking with the cook. This was indeed a come- 
down, from the highest seat in the synagogue to a seat in the 
galley with the black cook. At night, too, when supper was 
called, he stood in the waist for some time, hoping to be asked 
down with the officers, but they went below, one after another, 
and left him. His next chance was with the carpenter and 
sailmaker, and he lounged round the after hatchway until the 
last had gone down. We had now had fun enough out of him, 
and taking pity on him, offered him a pot of tea, and a cut at 
the kid, with the rest, in the forecastle. He was hungry, and 
it was growing dark, and he began to see that there was no use 
in playing the caballero any longer, and came down into 
the forecastle, put into the "grub" in sailor's style, threw 
off all his airs, and enjoyed the joke as much as any one ; for 
a man must take a joke among sailors. He gave us an ac- 
count of his adventures in the country, — roguery and all, — 
and was very entertaining. He was a smart, unprincipled 
fellow, was in many of the rascally doings of the country, and 



272 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

gave us a great deal of interesting information as to the ways 
of the world we were in. 

Saturday^ February ijth. Were called up at midnight to 
slip for a violent northeaster ; for this miserable hole of San 
Pedro is thought unsafe in almost every wind. We went off 
with a flowing sheet, and hove-to under the lee of Catalina 
Island, where we lay three days, and then returned to our 
anchorage. 

Tuesday, February 2j. This afternoon a signal was made 
from the shore, and we went off in the gig, and found the 
agent's clerk, who had been up to the pueblo, waiting at 
the landing-place, with a package under his arm, covered with- 
brown paper and tied carefully with twine. No sooner had 
we shoved off than he told us there was good news from Santa 
Barbara. "What 's that.!*" said one of the crew; *'has the 
bloody agent slipped off the hooks "i Has the old bundle of 
bones got him at last .? " — " No ; better than that. The Cali- 
fornia has arrived." Letters, papers, news, and, perhaps, — 
friends, on board ! Our hearts were all up in our mouths, and 
we pulled away like good fellows, for the precious packet could 
not be opened except by the captain. As we pulled under the 
stern, the clerk held up the package, and called out to the 
mate, who was leaning over the taffrail, that the California 
had arrived. 

" Hurrah ! " said the mate, so as to be heard fore and aft ; 
" California come, and news from Boston ! " 

Instantly there was a confusion on board which no one 
would understand who had not been in the same situation. 
All discipline seemed for a moment relaxed. 

'' What's that, Mr. Brown.?" said the cook, putting his 
head out of the galley ; " California come } " 

" Aye, aye ! you angel of darkness, and there's a letter for 
you from Bulknop 'treet, number two-two-five, — green door 
and brass knocker ! " 

The packet was sent down into the cabin, and every one 
waited to hear of the result. As nothing came up, the officers 



NEWS FROM HOME 273 

began to feel that they were acting rather a child's part, and 
turned the crew to again ; and the same strict discipline was 
restored, which prohibits speech between man and man while 
at work on deck ; so that, when the steward came forward 
with letters for the crew, each man took his letters, carried 
them below to his chest, and came up again immediately, and 
not a letter was read until we had cleared up decks for the 
night. 

An overstrained sense of manliness is the characteristic of 
seafaring men. This often gives an appearance of want of 
feeling, and even of cruelty. From this, if a man comes with- 
in an ace of breaking his neck and escapes, it is made a joke 
of ; and no notice must be taken of a bruise or a cut ; and any 
expression of pity, or any show of attention, would look sisterly, 
and unbecoming a man who has to face the rough and tumble 
of such a life. From this cause, too, the sick are neglected 
at sea, and, whatever sailors may be ashore, a sick man finds 
little sympathy or attention, forward or aft. A man, too, can 
have nothing peculiar or sacred on board ship ; for all the nicer 
feelings they take pride in disregarding, both in themselves and 
others. A thin-skinned man could hardly live on shipboard. 
One would be torn raw unless he had the hide of an ox. A 
moment of natural feeling for home and friends, and then the 
frigid routine of sea life returned. Jokes were made upon 
those who showed any interest in the expected news, and 
everything near and dear was made common stock for rude 
jokes and unfeeling coarseness, to which no exception could be 
taken by any one. 

Supper, too, must be eaten before the letters were read ; 
and when, at last, they were brought out, they all got round 
any one who had a letter, and expected to hear it read aloud, 
and have it all in common. If any one went by himself to 
read, it was — " Fair play, there, and no skulking ! " I took 
mine and went into the sailmaker's berth where I could read 
it without interruption. It was dated August, just a year 
from the time I had sailed from home, and every one was well, 



274 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and no great change had taken place. Thus, for one year, my 
mind was set at ease, yet it was already six months from the 
date of the letter, and what another year would bring to pass 
who could tell ? Every one away from home thinks that some 
great thing must have happened, while to those at home there 
seems to be a continued monotony and lack of incident. 

As much as my feelings were taken up by my own news 
from home, I could not but be amused by a scene in the 
steerage. The carpenter had been married just before leav- 
ing Boston, and during the voyage had talked much about his 
wife, and had to bear and forbear, as every man, known to be 
married, must, aboard ship ; yet the certainty of hearing from 
his wife by the first ship seemed to keep up his spirits. The 
California came, the packet was brought on board, no one was 
in higher spirits than he ; but when the letters came forward, 
there was none for him. The captain looked again, but there 
was no mistake. Poor " Chips " could eat no supper. He 
was completely down in the mouth. '' Sails " (the sailmaker) 
tried to comfort him, and told him he was a bloody fool to 
give up his grub for any woman's daughter, and reminded him 
that he had told him a dozen times that he 'd never see or hear 
from his wife again. 

*' Ah ! " said Chips, ''you don't know what it is to have a 
wife, and — " 

" Don't I ? " said Sails ; and then came, for the hundredth 
time, the story of his coming ashore at New York, from the 
Constellation frigate, after a cruise of four years round the 
Horn, — being paid off with over five hundred dollars, — mar- 
rying, and taking a couple of rooms in a four-story house, — 
furnishing the rooms (with a particular account of the furni- 
ture, including a dozen flag-bottomed chairs, which he always 
dilated upon whenever the subject of furniture was alluded 
to), going off to sea again, leaving his wife half -pay like a fool, 
— coming home and finding her " off, like Bob's horse, with 
nobody to pay the reckoning " ; furniture gone, flag-bottomed 
chairs and all, — and with it his "long-togs," the half pay, his 



NEWS FROM HOME 2/5 

beaver hat, and white linen shirts. His wife he never saw or 
heard of from that day to this, and never wished to. Then 
followed a sweeping assertion, not much to the credit of the 
sex, in which he has Pope to back him. " Come, Chips, cheer 
up like a man, and take some hot grub ! Don't be made a 
fool of by anything in petticoats ! As for your wife, you '11 
never see her again ; she was * up keeleg and off ' before you 
were outside of Cape Cod. You 've hove your money away 
like a fool ; but every man must learn once, just as I did ; so 
you 'd better square the yards with her, and make the best 
of it." 

This was the best consolation '' Sails " had to offer, but it 
did not seem to be just the thing the carpenter wanted ; for, 
during several days, he was very much dejected, and bore with 
difficulty the jokes of the sailors, and with still more difficulty 
their attempts at advice and consolation, of most of which the 
sailmaker's was a good specimen. 

Thursday^ February 2^th, Set sail for Santa Barbara, 
where we arrived on Sunday, the 28th. We just missed see- 
ing the California, for she had sailed three days before, bound 
to Monterey, to enter her cargo and procure her license, and 
thence to San Francisco, etc. Captain Arthur left files of 
Boston papers for Captain Thompson, which, after they had 
been read and talked over in the cabin, I procured from my 
friend the third mate. One file was of all the Boston Tran- 
scripts for the month of August, 1835, and the rest were 
about a dozen Daily Advertisers and Couriers of different 
dates. After all, there is nothing in a strange land like a 
newspaper from home. Even a letter, in many respects, is 
nothing in comparison with it. It carries you back to the spot 
better than anything else. It is almost equal to clairvoyance. 
The names of the streets, with the things advertised, are 
almost as good as seeing the signs ; and while reading " Boy 
lost ! " one can almost hear the bell and well-known voice of 
*' Old Wilson," crying the boy as " strayed, stolen, or mislaid ! " 
Then there was the Commencement at Cambridge, and the full 



276 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

account of the exercises at the graduating of my own class. 
A list of all those familiar names (beginning as usual with 
Abbot, and ending with W), which, as I read them over, one 
by one, brought up their faces and characters as I had known 
them in the various scenes of college life. Then I imagined 
them upon the stage, speaking their orations, dissertations, 
colloquies, etc., with the familiar gestures and tones of each, 
and tried to fancy the manner in which each would handle his 

subject. , handsome, showy, and superficial ; , with 

his strong head, clear brain, cool self-possession ; , modest, 

sensitive, and underrated ; , the mouthpiece of the debat- 
ing clubs, noisy, vapourous, and democratic; and, so, follow- 
ing. Then I could see them receiving their A.B.'s from the 
dignified, feudal-looking president, with his *' auctoritate mihi 
commissi," and walking off the stage with their diplomas in 
their hands ; while upon the same day their classmate was 
walking up and down California beach with a hide upon his 
head. 

Every watch below, for a week, I pored over these papers, 
until I was sure there could be nothing in them that had 
escaped my attention, and was ashamed to keep them any 
longer. 

Saturday, March ^th. This was an important day in our 
almanac, for it was on this day that we were first assured that 
our voyage was really drawing to a close. The captain gave 
orders to have the ship ready for getting under way ; and ob- 
served that there was a good breeze to take us down to San 
Pedro. Then we were not going up to windward. This much 
was certain, and was soon known, fore and aft ; and when we 
went in the gig to take him off, he shook hands with the people 
on the beach, and said that he did not expect to see Santa 
Barbara again. This settled the matter, and sent a thrill of 
pleasure through the heart of every one in the boat. We 
pulled off with a will, saying to ourselves (I can speak for my- 
self at least), " Good-bye, Santa Barbara ! This is the last pull 
here ! No more duckings in your breakers, and slipping from 



LAST LOOKS 2// 

your cursed southeasters ! " The news was soon known 
aboard, and put life into everything when we were getting 
under way. Each one was taking his last look at the Mission, 
the town, the breakers on the beach, and swearing that no 
money would make him ship to see them again ; and when all 
hands tallied on to the cat-fall, the chorus of " Time for us to 
go ! " was raised for the first time, and joined in, with full 
swing, by everybody. One would have thought we were on 
our voyage home, so near did it seem to us, though there were 
yet three months for us on the coast. 

We left here the young Englishman, George Marsh, of 
whom I have before spoken, who was wrecked upon the Pelew 
Islands. He left us to take the berth of second mate on 
board the Ayacucho, which was lying in port. He was well 
qualified for this post, and his education would enable him to 
rise to any situation on board ship. I felt really sorry to part 
from him. There was something about him which excited my 
curiosity ; for I could not, for a moment, doubt that he was 
well born, and, in early life, well bred. There was the latent 
gentleman about him, and the sense of honour, and no little 
of the pride, of a young man of good family. The situation 
was offered him only a few hours before we sailed ; and though 
he must give up returning to America, yet I have no doubt 
that the change from a dog's berth to an officer's was too 
agreeable to his feelings to be declined. We pulled him on 
board the Ayacucho, and when he left the boat he gave each 
of its crew a piece of money except myself, and shook hands 
with me, nodding his head, as much as to say, "We under- 
stand each other," and sprang on board. Had I known, an 
hour sooner, that he was to leave us, I would have made an 
effort to get from him the true history of his birth and early 
life. He knew that I had no faith in the story which he told 
the crew about them, and perhaps, in the moment of parting 
from me, probably forever, he would have given me the true 
account. Whether I shall ever meet him again, or whether 
his manuscript narrative of his adventures in the Pelew 



278 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Islands, which would be creditable to him and interesting to 
the world, will ever see the light, I cannot tell. His is one 
of those cases which are more numerous than those suppose 
who have never lived anywhere but in their own homes, and 
never walked but in one line from their cradles to their graves. 
We must come down from our heights, and leave our straight 
paths for the byways and low places of life, if we would learn 
truths by strong contrasts ; and in hovels, in forecastles, and 
among our own outcasts in foreign lands, see what has been 
wrought among our fellow-creatures by accident, hardship, or 
vice. 

Two days brought us to San Pedro, and two days more (to 
our no small joy) gave us our last view of that place, which 
was universally called the hell of California, and seemed de- 
signed in every way for the wear and tear of sailors. Not 
even the last view could bring out one feeling of regret. No 
thanks, thought I, as we left the hated shores in the distance, 
for the hours I have walked over your stones barefooted, with 
hides on my head, — for the burdens I have carried up your 
steep, muddy hill, — for the duckings in your surf ; and for 
the long days and longer nights passed on your desolate hill, 
watching piles of hides, hearing the sharp bark of your eternal 
coyotes, and the dismal hooting of your owls. 

As I bade good-bye to each successive place, I felt as though 
one link after another were struck from the chain of my servi- 
tude. Having kept close in shore for the land-breeze, we 
passed the Mission of San Juan Capistrano the same night, 
and saw distinctly, by the bright moonlight, the cliff which I 
had gone down by a pair of halyards in search of a few paltry 

hides. ^ , ,. „ 

" Forsan et haec ohm," 

thought I, and took my last look of that place too. And on 
the next morning we were under the high point of San Diego. 
The flood tide took us swiftly in, and we came-to opposite our 
hide-house, and prepared to get everything in trim for a long 
stay. This was our last port. Here we were to discharge 



LAST LOOKS 279 

everything from the ship, clean her out, smoke her, take in 
our hides, wood, and water, and set sail for Boston. While 
all this was doing, we were to lie still in one place, the port a 
safe one, and no fear of southeasters. Accordingly, having 
picked out a good berth in the stream, with a smooth beach 
opposite for a landing-place, and within two cables' length of 
our hide-house, we moored ship, unbent the sails, sent down 
the top-gallant yards and the studding-sail booms, and housed 
the top-gallant-masts. The boats were then hove out and all 
the sails, the spare spars, the stores, the rigging not rove, and, 
in fact, everything which was not in daily use, sent ashore, 
and stowed away in the house. Then went our hides and 
horns, and we left hardly anything in the ship but her ballast, 
and this we made preparations to heave out the next day. At 
night, after we had knocked off, and were sitting round in the 
forecastle, smoking and talking, and taking sailor's pleasure, 
we congratulated ourselves upon being in that situation in 
which we had wished ourselves every time we had come into 
San Diego. *' If we were only here for the last time," we had 
often said, "with our top-gallant masts housed and our sails 
unbent ! " — and now we had our wish. Six weeks, or two 
months, of the hardest work we had yet seen, but not the 
most disagreeable or trying, was before us, and then — '' Good- 
bye to California ! " 



CHAPTER XXIX 

WE turned-in early, knowing that we might expect an 
early call ; and sure enough, before the stars had 
quite faded, *' All hands ahoy ! " and we were 
turned-to, heaving out ballast. A regulation of the port for- 
bids any ballast to be thrown overboard ; accordingly, our 
long-boat was lined inside with rough boards and brought 
alongside the gangway, but where one tubful went into the 
boat twenty went overboard. This is done by every vessel, 
as it saves more than a week of labour, which would be spent 
in loading the boats, rowing them to the point, and unloading 
them. When any people from the Presidio were on board, the 
boat was hauled up and the ballast thrown in ; but when the 
coast was clear, she was dropped astern again, and the ballast 
fell overboard. This is one of those petty frauds which many 
vessels practise in ports of inferior foreign nations, and which 
are lost sight of among the deeds of greater weight which are 
hardly less common. Fortunately, a sailor, not being a free 
agent in work aboard ship, is not accountable ; yet the fact of 
being constantly employed, without thought, in such things, 
begets an indifference to the rights of others. 

Friday, and a part of Saturday, we were engaged in this 
work, until we had thrown out all but what we wanted under 
our cargo on the passage home ; when, as the next day was 
Sunday, and a good day for smoking ship, we cleared every- 
thing out of the cabin and forecastle, made a slow fire of char- 
coal, birch-bark, brimstone, and other matters, on the ballast 
in the bottom of the hold, calked up the hatches and every 
open seam, and pasted over the cracks of the windows, and 
the slides of the scuttles and companion-way. Wherever smoke 
was seen coming out, we calked and pasted and, so far as we 

280 



LOADING FOR HOME 28 1 

could, made the ship smoke tight. The captain and officers 
slept under the awning which was spread over the quarter- 
deck ; and we stowed ourselves away under an old studding- 
sail, which we drew over one side of the forecastle. The next 
day, from fear that something might happen in the way of 
fire, orders were given for no one to leave the ship, and, as the 
decks were lumbered up, we could not wash them down, so we 
had nothing to do all day long. Unfortunately, our books were 
where we could not get at them, and we were turning about 
for something to do, when one man recollected a book he had 
left in the galley. He went after it, and it proved to be Wood- 
stock. This was a great windfall, and as all could not read it 
at once, I, being the scholar of the company, was appointed 
reader. I got a knot of six or eight about me, and no one 
could have had a more attentive audience. Some laughed at 
the " scholars," and went over the other side of the forecastle 
to work and spin their yarns ; but I carried the day, and had 
the cream of the crew for my hearers. Many of the reflec- 
tions, and the political parts, I omitted, but all the narrative 
they were delighted with ; especially the descriptions of the 
Puritans, and the sermons and harangues of the Roundhead 
soldiers. The gallantry of Charles, Dr. Radcliffe's plots, the 
knavery of "trusty Tompkins," — in fact, every part seemed 
to chain their attention. Many things which, while I was 
reading, I had a misgiving about, thinking them above their 
tastes, I was surprised to find them enter into completely. 

I read nearly all day, until sundown ; when, as soon as 
supper was over, as I had nearly finished, they got a light 
from the galley ; and by skipping what was less interesting, I 
carried them through to the marriage of Everard, and the 
restoration of Charles the Second, before eight o'clock. 

The next morning, we took the battens from the hatches, 
and opened the ship. A few stifled rats were found; and 
what bugs, cockroaches, fleas, and other vermin there might 
have been on board must have unrove their life-lines before 
the hatches were opened. The ship being now ready, we 



282 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

covered the bottom of the hold over, fore and aft, with dried 
brush for dunnage, and, having levelled everything away, we 
were ready to take in our cargo. All the hides that had been 
collected since the California left the coast (a little more than 
two years), amounting to about forty thousand, had been cured, 
dried, and stowed away in the house, waiting for our good 
ship to take them to Boston. 

Now began the operation of taking in our cargo, which 
kept us hard at work, from the gray of the morning till star- 
light, for six weeks, with the exception of Sundays, and of just 
time to swallow our meals. To carry the work on quicker, a 
division of labour was made. Two men threw the hides down 
from the piles in the house, two more picked them up and 
put them on a long horizontal pole, raised a few feet from the 
ground, where they were beaten by two more with flails, some- 
what like those used in threshing wheat. When beaten, they 
were taken from this pole by two more, and placed upon a 
platform of boards ; and ten or a dozen men, with their trousers 
rolled up, and hides upon their heads, were constantly going 
back and forth from the platform to the boat, which was kept 
off where she would just float. The throwing the hides upon 
the pole was the most difficult work, and required a sleight-of- 
hand which was only to be got by long practice. As I was 
known for a hide-curer, this post was assigned to me, and I 
continued at it for six or eight days, tossing, in that time, from 
eight to ten thousand hides, until my wrists became so lame 
that I gave in, and was transferred to the gang that was em- 
ployed in filling the boats, where I remained for the rest of the 
time. As we were obliged to carry the hides on our heads 
from fear of their getting wet, we each had a piece of sheep- 
skin sewed into the inside of our hats, with the wool next our 
heads, and thus were able to bear the weight, day after day, 
which might otherwise have worn off our hair, and borne hard 
upon our skulls. Upon the whole ours was the best berth, 
for though the water was nipping cold, early in the morning 
and late at night, and being so continually wet was rather an 



LOADING FOR HOME 283 

exposure, yet we got rid of the constant dust and dirt from 
the beating of the hides, and, being all of us young and hearty, 
did not mind the exposure. The older men of the crew, whom 
it would have been imprudent to keep in the water, rernained 
on board with the mate, to stow the hides away, as fast as they 
were brought off by the boats. 

We continued at work in this manner until the lower hold 
was filled to within four feet of the beams, when all hands 
were called aboard to begin steeving. As this is a peculiar 
operation, it will require a minute description. 

Before stowing the hides, as I have said, the ballast is 
levelled off, just above the keelson, and then loose dunnage 
is placed upon it, on which the hides rest. The greatest care 
is used in stowing, to make the ship hold as many hides as 
possible. It is no mean art, and a man skilled in it is an im- 
portant character in California. Many a dispute have I heard 
raging high between professed "beach-combers," as to whether 
the hides should be stowed "shingling," or "back-to-back 
and flipper-to-flipper" ; upon which point there was an entire 
and bitter division of sentiment among the savants. We 
adopted each method at different periods of the stowing, and 
parties ran high in the forecastle, some siding with "old Bill" 
in favour of the former, and others scouting him and relying 
upon " English Bob " of the Ayacucho, who had been eight 
years in California, and was willing to risk his life and limb for 
the latter method. At length a compromise was effected, 
and a middle course of shifting the ends and backs at every 
lay was adopted, which worked well, and which each party 
granted was better than that of the other, though inferior to 
its own. 

Having filled the ship up, in this way, to within four feet 
of her beams, the process of steeving began, by which a hun- 
dred hides are got into a place where scarce one could be 
forced by hand, and which presses the hides to the utmost, 
sometimes starting the beams of the ship, — resembling in its 
effects the jack-screws which are used in stowing cotton. 



284 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Each morning we went ashore, and beat and brought off as 
many hides as we could steeve in a day, and, after breakfast, 
went down into the hold, where we remained at work until 
night, except a short spell for dinner. The length of the hold, 
from stem to stern, was floored off level ; and we began with 
raising a pile in the after-part, hard against the bulkhead of 
the run, and filling it up to the beams, crowding in as many 
as we could by hand and pushing in with oars, when a large 
"book" was made of from twenty-five to fifty hides, doubled 
at the backs, and placed one within another, so as to leave but 
one outside hide for the book. An opening was then made 
between two hides in the pile, and the back of the outside hide 
of the book inserted. Above and below this book were placed 
smooth strips of wood, well greased, called "ways," to facili- 
tate the sliding in of the book. Two long, heavy spars, called 
steeves, made of the strongest wood, and sharpened off like a 
wedge at one end, were placed with their wedge ends into the 
inside of the hide which was the centre of the book, and to 
the other end of each, straps were fitted, into which large 
tackles ^ were hooked, composed each of two huge purchase 
blocks, one hooked to the strap on the end of the steeve, and 
the other into a dog, fastened into one of the beams, as far aft 
as it could be got. When this was arranged, and the ways 
greased upon which the book was to slide, the falls of the 
tackles were stretched forward, and all hands tallied on, and 
bowsed away upon them until the book was well entered, when 
these tackles were nippered, straps and toggles clapped upon 
the falls, and two more luff tackles hooked on, with dogs, in 
the same manner ; and thus, by luff upon luff, the power was 
multiplied, until into a pile in which one hide more could not be 
crowded by hand a hundred or a hundred and fifty were often 
driven by this complication of purchases. When the last luff 
was hooked on, all hands were called to the rope, — cook, 
steward, and all, — and ranging ourselves at the falls, one be- 

I This word, when used to signify a pulley or purchase formed by blocks and 
a rope, is always by seamen pronounced ta-kl. 



LOADING FOR HOME 285 

hind the other, sitting down on the hides, with our heads just 
even with the beams, we set taut upon the tackles, and strik- 
ing up a song, and all lying back at the chorus, we bowsed 
the tackles home, and drove the large books chock in out of 
sight. 

The sailors' songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar 
kind, having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is 
usually sung by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join 
in, — and, the louder the noise, the better. With us, the 
chorus seemed almost to raise the decks of the ship, and 
might be heard at a great distance ashore. A song is as 
necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a soldier. They 
must pull together as soldiers must step in time, and they can't 
pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. Many a time, when 
a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, 
like " Heave, to the girls ! " " Nancy O ! " "Jack Crosstree," 
"Cheerly, men," etc., has put life and strength into every arm. 
We found a great difference in the effect of the various songs 
in driving in the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, 
one after the other, with no effect, — not an inch could be got 
upon the tackles ; when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit 
the humour of the moment, and drove the tackles "two blocks " 
at once. " Heave round hearty ! " " Captain gone ashore ! " 
"Dandy ship and a dandy crew," and the like, might do for 
common pulls, but on an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, 
" raise-the-dead pull," which should start the beams of the 
ship, there was nothing like " Time for us to go ! " " Round 
the corner," "Tally high ho! you know," or "Hurrah! 
hurrah ! my hearty bullies ! " 

This was the most lively part of our work. A little boat- 
ing and beach work in the morning; then twenty or thirty 
men down in a close hold, where we were obliged to sit doWn 
and slide about, passing hides, and rowsing about the great 
steeves, tackles, and dogs, singing out at the falls, and seeing 
the ship filling up every day. The work was as hard as it could 
well be. There was not a moment's cessation from Monday 



286 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

morning till Saturday night, when we were generally beaten 
out, and glad to have a full night's rest, a wash and shift of 
clothes, and a quiet Sunday. During all this time — which 
would have startled Dr. Graham — we lived upon almost 
nothing but fresh beef; fried beefsteaks, three times a day, 
— morning, noon, and night. At morning and night we had 
a quart of tea to each man, and an allowance of about a pound 
of hard bread a day ; but our chief article of food was beef. 
A mess, consisting of six men, had a large wooden kid piled 
up with beefsteaks, cut thick, and fried in fat, with the grease 
poured over them. Round this we sat, attacking it with our 
jack-knives and teeth, and with the appetite of young lions, and 
sent back an empty kid to the galley. This was done three 
times a day. How many pounds each man ate in a day I will 
not attempt to compute. A whole bullock (we ate liver and 
all) lasted us but four days. Such devouring of flesh, I will 
venture to say, is not often seen. What one man ate in a 
day, over a hearty man's allowance, would make an English 
peasant's heart leap into his mouth. Indeed, during all the 
time we were upon the coast, our principal food was fresh 
beef, and every man had perfect health ; but this was a time 
of especial devouring, and what we should have done without 
meat I can not tell. Once or twice, when our bullocks failed, 
and we were obliged to make a meal upon dry bread and water, 
it seemed like feeding upon shavings. Light and dry, feeling 
unsatisfied, and, at the same time, full, we were glad to see 
four quarters of a bullock, just killed, swinging from the fore- 
top. Whatever theories may be started by sedentary men, 
certainly no men could have gone through more hard work and 
exposure for sixteen months in more perfect health, and with- 
out ailings and failings, than our ship's crew, let them have 
lived upon Hygeia's own baking and dressing. 

Friday y April i^th. Arrived, brig Pilgrim, from the wind- 
ward. It was a sad sight for her crew to see us getting ready 
to go off the coast, while they, who had been longer on the 
coast than the Alert, were condemned to another year's hard 



LOADING FOR HOME 287 

service. I spent an evening on board, and found them making 
the best of the matter, and determined to rough it out as they 
might. But Stimson, after considerable negotiating and work- 
ing, had succeeded in persuading my EngHsh friend, Tom 
Harris, — my companion in the anchor watch, — for thirty 
dollars, some clothes, and an intimation from Captain Faucon 
that he should want a second mate before the voyage was over, 
to take his place in the brig as soon as she was ready to go up 
to windward. 

The first opportunity I could get to speak to Captain 
Faucon, I asked him to step up to the oven and look at Hope, 
whom he knew well, having had him on board his vessel. He 
went to see him at once, and said that he was doing pretty 
well, but there was so little medicine on board the brig, and 
she would be so long on the coast, that he could spare none 
for him, but that Captain Arthur would take care of him when 
he came down in the California, which would be in a week or 
more. I had been to see Hope the first night after we got 
into San Diego this last time, and had frequently since spent 
the early part of a night in the oven. I hardly expected, when 
I left him to go to windward, to find him alive upon my return. 
He was certainly as low as he could well be when I left him, 
and what would be the effect of the medicines that I gave 
him I hardly then dared to conjecture. Yet I knew that he 
must die without them. I was not a little rejoiced, therefore, 
and relieved, upon our return, to see him decidedly better. 
The medicines were strong, and took hold and gave a check 
to the disorder which was destroying him ; and, more than 
that, they had begun the work of exterminating it. I shall 
never forget the gratitude that he expressed. All the Kanakas 
attributed his escape solely to my knowledge, and would not 
be persuaded that I had not all the secrets of the physical 
system open to me and under my control. My medicines, 
however, were gone, and no more could be got from the 
ship, so that his life was left to hang upon the arrival of the 
California. 



288 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Sunday, April 2^tJi. We had now been nearly seven 
weeks in San Diego, and had taken in the greater part of our 
cargo, and were looking out every day for the arrival of 
the California, which had our agent on board ; when, this 
afternoon, some Kanakas, who had been over the hill for rab- 
bits and to fight rattlesnakes, came running down the path, 
singing out *'Kail ho ! " with all their might. Mr. Hatch, our 
third mate, was ashore, and asking them particularly about 
the size of the sail, etc., and learning that it was " Moku — 
Nui Moku," hailed our ship, and said that the California was 
on the other side of the point. Instantly all hands were 
turned up, the bow guns run out and loaded, the ensign and 
broad pennant set, the yards squared by lifts and braces, 
and everything got ready to make a fair appearance. The in- 
stant she showed her nose round the point we began our salute. 
She came in under top-gallant-sails, clewed up and furled her 
sails in good order, and came-to within swinging distance of 
us. It being Sunday, and nothing to do, all hands were on 
the forecastle, criticising the newcomer. She was a good, 
substantial ship, not quite so long as the Alert, wall-sided and 
kettle-bottomed, after the latest fashion of south-shore cotton 
and sugar wagons ; strong, too, and tight, and a good average 
sailer, but with no pretensions to beauty, and nothing in the 
style of a ^' crack ship." Upon the whole, we were perfectly 
satisfied that the Alert might hold up her head with a ship 
twice as smart as she. 

At night some of us got a boat and went on board, and 
found a large, roomy forecastle (for she was squarer forward 
than the Alert), and a crew of a dozen or fifteen men and boys 
sitting around on their chests, smoking and talking, and ready 
to give a welcome to any of our ship's company. It was just 
seven months since they left Boston, which seemed but yester- 
day to us. Accordingly, we had much to ask ; for though we 
had seen the newspapers which she had brought, yet these 
were the very men who had been in Boston, and seen every- 
thing with their own eyes. One of the green hands was a 



LOADING FOR HOME 289 

Boston boy, from one of the public schools, and, of course, 
knew many things which we wished to ask about, and, on in- 
quiring the names of our two Boston boys, found that they 
had been schoolmates of his. Our men had hundreds of 
questions to ask about Ann street, the boarding-houses, the 
ships in port, the rate of wages, and other matters. 

Among her crew were two English man-of-war' s-men, so 
that, of course, we soon had music. They sang in the true 
sailor's style, and the rest of the crew, which was a remarkably 
musical one, joined in the choruses. They had many of the 
latest sailor songs, which had not yet got about among our mer- 
chantmen, and which they were very choice of. They began 
soon after we came on board, and kept it up until after two 
bells, when the second mate came forward and called "The 
Alert's away!" Battle-songs, drinking-songs, boat-songs, 
love-songs, and everything else, they seemed to have a com- 
plete assortment of, and I was glad to find that "All in the 
Downs," " Poor Tom Bowline," " The Bay of Biscay," " List, 
ye Landsmen ! " and other classical songs of the sea, still held 
their places. In addition to these, they had picked up at the 
theatres and other places a few songs of a little more genteel 
cast, which they were very proud of ; and I shall never forget 
hearing an old salt, who had broken his voice by hard drink- 
ing on shore, and bellowing from the mast-head in a hundred 
northwesters, singing — with all manner of ungovernable trills 
and quavers, in the high notes breaking into a rough falsetto, 
and in the low ones growling along like the dying away of the 
boatswain's " All hands ahoy ! " down the hatchway — " O no, 
we never mention him." 

<' Perhaps, like me, he struggles with 
Each feeling of regret ; 
But if he's loved as I have loved, 
He never can forget ! " 

The last line he roared out at the top of his voice, breaking 
each word into half a dozen syllables. This was very popular, 



290 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and Jack was called upon every night to give them his " senti- 
mental song." No one called for it more loudly than I, for 
the complete absurdity of the execution, and the sailors' per- 
fect satisfaction in it were ludicrous beyond measure. 

The next day the California began unloading her cargo ; 
and her boats' crews, in coming and going, sang their boat- 
songs, keeping time with their oars. This they did all day 
long for several days, until their hides were all discharged, 
when a gang of them were sent on board the Alert to help us 
steeve our hides. This was a windfall for us, for they had a 
set of new songs for the capstan and fall, and ours had got 
nearly worn out by six weeks' constant use. I have no doubt 
that this timely re-enforcement of songs hastened our work 
several days. 

Our cargo was now nearly all taken in, and my old friend, 
the Pilgrim, having completed her discharge, unmoored, to 
set sail the next morning on another long trip to windward. 
I was just thinking of her hard lot, and congratulating myself 
upon my escape from her, when I received a summons into 
the cabin. I went aft, and there found, seated round the 
cabin table, my own captain. Captain Faucon of the Pilgrim, 
and Mr. Robinson, the agent. Captain Thompson turned to 
me and asked abruptly, — 

*' Dana, do you want to go home in the ship ? " 

<' Certainly, sir," said I; "I expect to go home in 
the ship." 

"Then," said he, "you must get some one to go in your 
place on board the Pilgrim." 

I was so completely "taken aback " by this sudden intima- 
tion that for a moment I could make no reply. I thought it 
would be hopeless to attempt to prevail upon any of the ship's 
crew to take twelve months more upon California in the brig. 
I knew, too, that Captain Thompson had received orders to 
bring me home in the Alert, and he had told me, when I was 
at the hide-house, that I was to go home in her ; and even if 
this had not been so, it was cruel to give me no notice of the 



A SURPRISE 291 

Step they were going to take, until a few hours before the brig 
would sail. As soon as I had got my wits about me, I put on 
a bold front, and told him plainly that I had a letter in my 
chest informing me that he had been written to by the owners 
in Boston to bring me home in the ship ; and, moreover, that 
he had told me that he had such instructions, and that I was 
to return in the ship. 

To have this told him, and to be opposed in such a manner, 
was more than my lord paramount had been used to. He 
turned fiercely upon me, and tried to look me down, and face 
me out of my statement ; but finding that that would n't do, 
and that I was entering upon my defence in such a way as 
would show to the other two that he was in the wrong, he 
changed his ground, and pointed to the shipping-papers of the 
Pilgrim, from which my name had never been erased, and said 
that there was my name, — that I belonged to her, — that he 
had an absolute discretionary power, — and, in short, that I 
must be on board the Pilgrim by the next morning with my 
chest and hammock, or have some one ready to go in my place, 
and that he would not hear another word from me. No court 
of star chamber could proceed more summarily with a poor 
devil than this trio was about to do with me ; condemning me 
to a punishment worse than a Botany Bay exile, and to a fate 
which might alter the whole current of my future life ; for two 
years more in California might have made me a sailor for the 
rest of my days. I felt all this, and saw the necessity of being 
determined. I repeated what I had said, and insisted upon 
my right to return in the ship. I 

" Raised my arm, and tauld my crack, 
Before them a\'" 

But it would have all availed me nothing had I been '' some 
poor body" before this absolute, domineering tribunal. But 
they saw that I would not go, unless " vi et armis," and they 
knew that I had friends and interest enough at home to make 
them suffer for any injustice they might do me. It was prob- 



292 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ably this that turned the scale : for the captain changed his 
tone entirely, and asked me if, in case any one went in my 
place, I would give him the same sum that Stimson gave 
Harris to exchange with him. I told them that if any one 
was sent on board the brig I should pity him, and be willing 
to help him to that, or almost any amount ; but would not 
speak of it as an exchange. 

** Very well," said he. *' Go forward about your business, 
and send English Ben here to me ! " 

I went forward with a light heart, but feeling as much 
anger and contempt as I could well contain between my teeth. 
English Ben was sent aft, and in a few moments came for- 
ward, looking as though he had received his sentence to be 
hanged. The captain had told him to get his things ready to 
go on board the brig next morning ; and that I would give him 
thirty dollars and a suit of clothes. The hands had "knocked 
off " for dinner, and were standing about the forecastle, when 
Ben came forward and told his story. I could see plainly that 
it made a great excitement, and that, unless I explained the 
matter to them, the feeling would be turned against me. Ben 
was a poor English boy, a stranger in Boston, and without 
friends or money ; and, being an active, willing lad, and a good 
sailor for his years, was a general favourite. " Oh, yes ! " said 
the crew; "the captain has let you off because you are a 
gentleman's son, and taken Ben because he is poor, and has 
got nobody to say a word for him." I knew that this was too 
true to be answered, but I excused myself from any blame, 
and told them that I had a right to go home, at all events. 
This pacified them a little, but Jack had got a notion that a 
poor lad was to be imposed upon, and did not distinguish very 
clearly ; and though I knew that I was in no fault, and, in fact, 
had barely escaped the grossest injustice, yet I felt that my 
berth was getting to be a disagreeable one. The notion that 
I was not " one of them," which, by a participation in all their 
labour and hardships, and having no favour shown me, and 
never asserting myself among them, had been laid asleep, was 



AN EXCHANGE 293 

beginning to revive. But far stronger than any feeling for 
myself was the pity I felt for the poor lad. He had depended 
upon going home in the ship ; and from Boston was going 
immediately to Liverpool, to see his friends. Besides this, 
having begun the voyage with very few clothes, he had taken 
up the greater part of his wages in the slop-chest, and it was 
every day a losing concern to him ; and, like all the rest of the 
crew, he had a hearty hatred of California, and the prospect 
of eighteen months or two years more of hide droghing 
seemed completely to break down his spirit. I had deter- 
mined not to go myself, happen what would, and I knew that 
the captain would not dare to attempt to force me. I knew, 
too, that the two captains had agreed together to get some 
one, and that unless I could prevail upon somebody to go 
voluntarily, there would be no help for Ben. From this con- 
sideration, though I had said that I would have nothing to do 
with an exchange, I did my best to get some one to go volun- 
tarily. I offered to give an order upon the owners in Boston 
for six months' wages, and also all the clothes, books, and 
other matters which I should not want upon the voyage home. 
When this offer was published in the ship, and the case of 
poor Ben set forth in strong colours, several, who would not 
dream of going themselves, were busy in talking it up to 
others, who, they thought, might be tempted to accept it ; and, 
at length, a Boston boy, a harum-scarum lad, a great favourite, 
Harry May, whom we called Harry Bluff, and who did not 
care what country or ship he was in, if he had clothes enough 
and money enough, — partly from pity for Ben, and partly 
from the thought he should have "cruising money" for the 
rest of his stay, — came forward, and offered to go and "sling 
his hammock in the bloody hooker." Lest his purpose should 
cool, I signed an order for the sum upon the owners in Boston, 
gave him all the clothes I could spare, and sent him aft to the 
captain, to let him know what had been done. The skipper 
accepted the exchange, and was, doubtless, glad to have it pass 
off so easily. At the same time he cashed the order, which 



294 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

was indorsed to him,' and the next morning the lad went 
aboard the brig, apparently in good spirits, having shaken 
hands with each of us and wished us a pleasant passage home, 
jingling the money in his pockets, and calling out " Never say 
die, while there 's a shot in the locker." The same boat car- 
ried off Harris, my old watchmate, who had previously made 
an exchange with my friend Stimson. 

I was sorry to part with Harris. Nearly two hundred 
hours (as we had calculated it) had we walked the ship's deck 
together, at anchor watch, when all hands were below, and 
talked over and over every subject which came within the ken 
of either of us. He gave me a strong gripe with his hand ; 
and I told him, if he came to Boston, not to fail to find me out, 
and let me see my old watchmate. The same boat brought 
on board Stimson, who had begun the voyage with me from 
Boston, and, like me, was going back to his family and to the 
society in which he had been born and brought up. We con- 
gratulated each other upon finding what we had long talked 
over and wished for thus brought about ; and none on board 
the ship were more glad than ourselves to see the old brig 
standing round the point, under full sail. As she passed 
abreast of us, we all collected in the waist, and gave her three 
loud, hearty cheers, waving our hats in the air. Her crew 
sprang into the rigging and chains, and answered us with three 
as loud, to which we, after the nautical custom, gave one in 
return. I took my last look of their familiar faces as they 
passed over the rail, and saw the old black cook put his head 
out of the galley, and wave his cap over his head. Her crew 
flew aloft to loose the top-gallant-sails and royals ; the two cap- 
tains waved their hands to each other ; and, in ten minutes, we 
saw the last inch of her white canvas, as she rounded the point. 

Relieved as I was to see her well off (and I felt like one 
who had just sprung from an iron trap which was closing upon 

I When our crew were paid off in Boston, the owners answered the orders of 
Stimson and me, but refused to deduct the amount from the pay-roll, saying that 
the exchanges were made under compulsion. 



THE LAST HIDE 295 

him), I had yet a feeling of regret at taking the last look at the 
old craft in which I had spent a year, and the first year, of my 
sailor's life, which had been my first home in the new world 
into which I had entered, and with which I had associated so 
many events, — my first leaving home, my first crossing the 
equator, Cape Horn, Juan Fernandez, death at sea, and other 
things, serious and common. Yet, with all this, and the senti- 
ment I had for my old shipmates condemned to another term 
of California life, the thought that we were done with it, and 
that one week more would see us on our way to Boston, was 
a cure for everything. 

Friday, May 6th, completed the getting in of our cargo, 
and was a memorable day in our calendar. The time when 
we were to take in our last hide we had looked forward to, 
for sixteen months, as the first bright spot. When the last 
hide was stowed away, the hatches calked down, the tarpaulins 
battened on to them, the long-boat hoisted in and secured, and 
the decks swept down for the night, — the chief mate sprang 
upon the top of the long-boat, called all hands into the waist, 
and, giving us a signal by swinging his cap over his head, we 
gave three long, loud cheers, which came from the bottom of 
our hearts, and made the hills and valleys ring again. In a 
moment we heard three in answer from the California's crew, 
who had seen us taking in our long-boat : " the cry they 
heard, — its meaning knew." 

The last week we had been occupied in taking in a supply 
of wood and water for the passage home, and in bringing on 
board the spare spars, sails, etc. I was sent off with a party 
of Indians to fill the water-casks, at a spring about three miles 
from the shipping and near the town, and was absent three 
days, living at the town, and spending the daytime in filling the 
casks and transporting them on ox-carts to the landing-place, 
whence they were taken on board by the crew with boats. 
This being all done with, we gave one day to bending our sails, 
and at night every sail, from the courses to the skysails, was 
bent, and every studding-sail ready for setting. 



296 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Before our sailing an unsuccessful attempt was made by 
one of the crew of the California to effect an exchange with 
one of our number. It was a lad, between fifteen and sixteen 
years of age, who went by the name of the ''reefer," having 
been a midshipman in an East India Company's ship. His 
singular character and story had excited our interest ever 
since the ship came into the port. He was a delicate, slender 
little fellow, with a beautiful pearly complexion, regular 
features ; forehead as white as marble, black hair curling 
beautifully round it ; tapering, delicate fingers ; small feet, 
soft voice, gentle manners, and, in fact, every sign of having 
been well born and bred. At the same time there was 
something in his expression which showed a slight deficiency 
of intellect. How great the deficiency was, or what it re- 
sulted from ; whether he was born so ; whether it was the 
result of disease or accident ; or whether, as some said, it was 
brought on by his distress of mind during the voyage, — I 
can not say. From his account of himself, and from many 
circumstances which were known in connection with his story, 
he must have been the son of a man of wealth. His mother 
was an Italian. He was probably a natural son, for in scarcely 
any other way could the incidents of his early life be accounted 
for. He said that his parents did not live together, and he 
seemed to have been ill treated by his father. Though he had 
been delicately brought up, and indulged in every way (and 
he had then with him trinkets which had been given him at 
home), yet his education had been sadly neglected ; and when 
only twelve years old, he was sent as midshipman in the Com- 
pany's service. His own story was, that he afterwards ran 
away from home, upon a difficulty which he had with his 
father, and went to Liverpool, whence he sailed in the ship 
Rialto, Captain Holmes, for Boston. Captain Holmes en- 
deavoured to get him a passage back, but, there being no 
vessel to sail for some time, the boy left him, and went to 
board at a common sailor's boarding-house in Ann Street, 
where he supported himself for a few weeks by selling some 



A HARD CASE 297 

of his valuables. At length, according to his own account, be- 
ing desirous of returning home, he went to a shipping-office, 
where the shipping articles of the California were open. Upon 
asking where the ship was going, he was told by the shipping- 
master that she was bound to California. Not knowing where 
that was, he told him that he wanted to go to Europe, and 
asked if California was in Europe. The shipping-master an- 
swered him in a way which the boy did not understand, and 
advised him to ship. The boy signed the articles, received 
his advance, laid out a little of it in clothes, and spent the 
rest, and was ready to go on board, when, upon the morning 
of sailing, he heard that the ship was bound upon the North- 
west Coast, on a two or three years' voyage, and was not go- 
ing to Europe. Frightened at this prospect, he slipped away 
when the crew were going aboard, wandered up into another 
part of the town, and spent all the forenoon in straying about 
the Common and the neighbouring streets. Having no 
money, and all his clothes and other things being in his chest 
on board, and being a stranger, he became tired and hungry, 
and ventured down toward the shipping, to see if the vessel 
had sailed. He was just turning the corner of a street, when 
the shipping-master, who had been in search of him, popped 
upon him, seized him, and carried him on board. He cried 
and struggled, and said he did not wish to go in the ship ; but 
the topsails were at the mast-head, the fasts just ready to be 
cast off, and everything in the hurry and confusion of depar- 
ture, so that he was hardly noticed ; and the few who did in- 
quire about the matter were told that it was merely a boy who 
had spent his advance and tried to run away. Had the owners 
of the vessel known anything of the matter, they would doubt- 
less have interfered ; but they either knew nothing of it, or 
heard, like the rest, that it was only an unruly boy who was 
sick of his bargain. As soon as the boy found himself actually 
at sea, and upon a voyage of two or three years in length, his 
spirits failed him ; he refused to work, and became so miser- 
able that Captain Arthur took him into the cabin, where he 



298 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

assisted the steward, and occasionally pulled and hauled about 
decks. He was in this capacity when we saw him ; and though 
it was much better for him than the life in a forecastle, and 
the hard work, watching, and exposure, which his delicate 
frame could not have borne, yet, to be joined with a black 
fellow in waiting upon a man whom he probably looked upon 
as but little, in point of education and manners, above one 
of his father's servants, was almost too much for his spirit to 
bear. Had he entered upon this situation of his own free will, 
he could have endured it ; but to have been deceived, and, in 
addition to that, forced into it, was intolerable. He made 
every effort to go home in our ship, but his captain refused to 
part with him except in the way of exchange, and that he 
could not effect. If this account of the whole matter, which 
we had from the boy, and which was confirmed by the crew, 
be correct, I can not understand why Captain Arthur should 
have refused to let him go, especially as he had the name, not 
only with that crew, but with all he had ever commanded, of 
an unusually kind-hearted man. The truth is, the unlimited 
power which merchant captains have upon long voyages on 
strange coasts takes away the sense of responsibility, and too 
often, even in men otherwise well disposed, gives growth to a 
disregard for the rights and feelings of others. The lad was 
sent on shore to join the gang at the hide-house, from whence, 
I was afterwards rejoiced to hear, he effected his escape, and 
went down to Callao in a small Spanish schooner ; and from 
Callao he probably returned to England. 

Soon after the arrival of the California, I spoke to Captain 
Arthur about Hope, the Kanaka ; and as he had known him 
on the voyage before, and liked him, he immediately went 
to see him, gave him proper medicines, and, under such care, 
he began rapidly to recover. The Saturday night before our 
sailing I spent an hour in the oven, and took leave of my 
Kanaka friends ; and, really, this was the only thing con- 
nected with leaving California which was in any way un- 
pleasant. I felt an interest and affection for many of these 



LAST DAY IN CALIFORNIA 299 

simple, true-hearted men, such as I never felt before but for 
a near relation. Hope shook me by the hand ; said he should 
soon be well again, and ready to work for me when I came 
upon the coast, next voyage, as officer of the ship ; and 
told me not to forget, when I became captain, how to be 
kind to the sick. Old " Mr. Bingham " and '' King Mannini " 
went down to the boat with me, shook me heartily by the 
hand, wished us a good voyage, and went back to the oven, 
chattering one of their deep, monotonous, improvised songs, 
the burden of which I gathered to be about us and our 
voyage. 

Sunday, May 8th, This promised to be our last day in 
California. Our forty thousand hides and thirty thousand 
horns, besides several barrels of otter and beaver skins, were 
all stowed below, and the hatches calked down.^ All our 
spare spars were taken on board and lashed, our water-casks 
secured, and our live stock, consisting of four bullocks, a dozen 
sheep, a dozen or more pigs, and three dozen or four of poul- 
try, were all stowed away in their different quarters ; the bul- 
locks in the long-boat, the sheep in a pen on the fore hatch, 
the pigs in a sty under the bows of the long-boat, and the 
poultry in their proper coop, and the jolly-boat was full of hay 
for the sheep and bullocks. Our unusually large cargo, to- 
gether with the stores for a five months' voyage, brought the 
the ship channels down into the water. In addition to this, 
she had been steeved so thoroughly, and was so bound by the 
compression of her cargo, forced into her by machinery so 
powerful, that she was like a man in a strait-jacket, and would 
be but a dull sailer until she had worked herself loose. 

The California had finished discharging her cargo, and was 
to get under way at the same time with us. Having washed 
down decks and got breakfast, the two vessels lay side by 

I We had also a small quantity of gold dust, which Mexicans or Indians had 
brought down to us from the interior. It was not uncommon for our ships to bring 
a little, as I have since learned from the owners. I heard rumours of gold dis- 
coveries, but they attracted little or no attention, and were not followed up. 



300 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

side, in complete readiness for sea, our ensigns hanging from 
the peaks, and our tall spars reflected from the glassy surface 
of the river, which, since sunrise, had been unbroken by a 
ripple. At length a few whiffs came across the water, and, 
by eleven o'clock the regular northwest wind set steadily in. 
There was no need of calling all hands, for we had all been 
hanging about the forecastle the whole forenoon, and were 
ready for a start upon the first sign of a breeze. Often we 
turned our eyes aft upon the captain, who was walking the 
deck, with every now and then a look to windward. He made 
a sign to the mate, who came forward, took his station deliber- 
ately between the knight-heads, cast a glance aloft, and called 
out "All hands, lay aloft and loose the sails!" We were 
half in the rigging before the order came, and never since we 
left Boston were the gaskets off the yards, and the rigging 
overhauled, in a shorter time. "All ready forward, sir!" — 
"All ready the main ! " — " Cross-jack yards all ready, sir ! " — 
" Lay down, all hands but one on each yard ! " The yard-arm 
and bunt gaskets were cast off ; and each sail hung by the 
jigger, with one man standing by the tie to let it go. At the 
same moment that we sprang aloft, a dozen hands sprang into 
the rigging of the California, and in an instant were all over 
her yards ; and her sails, too, were ready to be dropped at 
the word. In the mean time our bow gun had been loaded 
and run out, and its discharge was to be the signal for dropping 
the sails. A cloud of smoke came out of our bows ; the echoes 
of the gun rattled our farewell among the hills of California, 
and the two ships were covered, from head to foot, with their 
white canvas. For a few minutes all was uproar and apparent 
confusion ; men j umping about like monkeys in the rigging ; 
ropes and blocks flying, orders given and answered amid the 
confused noises of men singing out at the ropes. The topsails 
came to the mast-heads with " Cheerly, men ! " and, in a few 
minutes, every sail was set, for the wind was light. The head 
sails were backed, the windlass came round " slip — slap " to 
the cry of the sailors ; — " Hove short, sir," said the mate ; — 



UP ANCHOR, FOR HOME! 301 

"Up with him ! " — "Aye, aye, sir." A few hearty and long 
heaves, and the anchor showed its head. " Hook cat ! " The 
fall was stretched along the decks ; all hands laid hold ; — 
" Hurrah, for the last time," said the mate ; and the anchor 
came to the cat-head to the tune of "Time for us to go," with 
a rollicking chorus. Everything was done quick, as though it 
was for the last time. The head yards were filled away, and 
our ship began to move through the water on her homeward- 
bound course. 

The California had got under way at the same moment, 
and we sailed down the narrow bay abreast, and were just off 
the mouth, and, gradually drawing ahead of her, were on the 
point of giving her three parting cheers, when suddenly we 
found ourselves stopped short, and the California ranging fast 
ahead of us. A bar stretches across the mouth of the harbour, 
with water enough to float common vessels, but, being low in 
the water, and having kept well to leeward, as we were bound 
to the southward, we had stuck fast, while the California, be- 
ing light, had floated over. 

We kept all sail on, in the hope of forcing over, but, failing 
in this, we hove aback, and lay waiting for the tide, which was 
on the flood, to take us back into the channel. This was some- 
thing of a damper to us, and the captain looked not a little 
mortified and vexed. " This is the same place where the Rosa 
got ashore, sir," observed our red-headed second mate, most 
malapropos. A malediction on the Rosa, and him too, was all 
the answer he got, and he slunk off to leeward. In a few 
minutes the force of the wind and the rising of the tide backed 
us into the stream, and we were on our way to our old anchor- 
ing-place, the tide setting swiftly up, and the ship barely man- 
ageable in the light breeze. We came-to in our old berth 
opposite the hide-house, whose inmates were not a little sur- 
prised to see us return. We felt as though we were tied to 
California ; and some of the crew swore that they never should 
get clear of the bloody ^ coast. 

I This is a common expletive among sailors, and suits any purpose. 



302 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

In about half an hour, which was near high water, the 
order was given to man the windlass, and again the anchor 
was catted ; but there was no song, and not a word was said 
about the last time. The California had come back on finding 
that we had returned, and was hove-to, waiting for us, off the 
point. This time we passed the bar safely, and were soon up 
with the California, who filled away, and kept us company. 
She seemed desirous of a trial of speed, and our captain ac- 
cepted the challenge, although we were loaded down to the 
bolts of our chain-plates, as deep as a sand-barge, and bound 
so taut with our cargo that we were no more fit for a race 
than a man in fetters ; while our antagonist was in her best 
trim. Being clear of the point, the breeze became stiff, and 
the royal-masts bent under our sails, but we would not take 
them in until we saw three boys spring aloft into the rigging 
of the California ; when they were all furled at once, but with 
orders to our boys to stay aloft at the top-gallant mast-heads 
and loose them again at the word. It was my duty to furl the 
fore royal ; and, while standing by to loose it again, I had a 
fine view of the scene. From where I stood, the two vessels 
seemed nothing but spars and sails, while their narrow decks, 
far below, slanting over by the force of the wind aloft, appeared 
hardly capable of supporting the great fabrics raised upon 
them. The California was to windward of us, and had every 
advantage ; yet, while the breeze was stiff, we held our own. 
As soon as it began to slacken, she ranged a little ahead, and 
the order was given to loose the royals. In an instant the 
gaskets were off and the bunt dropped. " Sheet home the fore 
royal ! — Weather sheet 's home ! " — - " Lee sheet 's home ! " — 
" Hoist away, sir ! " is bawled from aloft. '' Overhaul your 
clew-lines ! " shouts the mate. " Aye, aye, sir ! all clear ! " — 
" Taut leech ! belay ! Well the lee brace ; haul taut to wind- 
ward," — and the royals are set. These brought us up again ; 
but, the wind continuing light, the California set hers, and it 
was soon evident that she was walking away from us. Our 
captain then hailed, and said that he should keep off to his 



THE ALERT AND CALIFORNIA 303 

course ; adding, " She is n't the Alert now. If I had her in 
your trim she would have been out of sight by this time." 
This was good-naturedly answered from the California, and 
she braced sharp up, and stood close upon the wind up the 
coast ; while we squared away our yards, and stood before 
the wind to the south-southwest. The California's crew 
manned her weather rigging, waved their hats in the air, and 
gave us three hearty cheers, which we answered as heartily, 
and the customary single cheer came back to us from over the 
water. She stood on her way, doomed to eighteen months' 
or two years' hard service upon that hated coast, while we 
were making our way to our home, to which every hour and 
every mile was bringing us nearer. 

As soon as we parted company with the California, all 
hands were sent aloft to set the studding-sails. Booms were 
rigged out, tacks and halyards rove, sail after sail packed upon 
her, until every available inch of canvas was spread, that we 
might not lose a breath of the fair wind. We could now see 
how much she was cramped and deadened by her cargo ; for 
with a good breeze on her quarter, and every stitch of canvas 
spread, we could not get more than six knots out of her. 
She had no more life in her than if she were water-logged. 
The log was hove several times ; but she was doing her best. 
We had hardly patience with her, but the older sailors said, 
" Stand by ! you '11 see her work herself loose in a week or 
two, and then she'll walk up to Cape Horn like a race-horse." 

When all sail had been set, and the decks cleared up, the 
California was a speck in the horizon, and the coast lay like a 
low cloud along the northeast. At sunset they were both out 
of sight, and we were once more upon the ocean, where sky 
and water meet. 



CHAPTER XXX 

AT eight o'clock all hands were called aft, and the watches 
set for the voyage. Some changes were made ; but I 
was glad to find myself still in the larboard watch. Our 
crew was somewhat diminished ; for a man and a boy had gone 
in the Pilgrim ; another was second mate of the Ayacucho ; 
and a fourth, Harry Bennett, the oldest man of the crew, had 
broken down under the hard work and constant exposure on 
the coast, and, having had a stroke of the palsy, was left be- 
hind at the hide-house, under the charge of Captain Arthur. 
The poor fellow wished very much to come home in the ship ; 
and he ought to have been brought home in her. But a live 
dog is better than a dead lion, and a sick sailor belongs to 
nobody's mess ; so he was sent ashore with the rest of the 
lumber, which was only in the way. He had come on board, 
with his chest, in the morning, and tried to make himself use- 
ful about decks ; but his shuffling feet and weak arms led him 
into trouble, and some words were said to him by the mate. 
He had the spirit of a man, and had become a little tender, 
perhaps weakened in mind, and said, "Mr. Brown, I always 
did my duty aboard until I was sick. If you don't want me, 
say so, and I '11 go ashore." " Bring up his chest," said Mr. 
Brown, and poor Bennett went down into a boat and was 
taken ashore, with tears in his eyes. He loved the ship and 
the crew, and wished to get home, but could not bear to be 
treated as a soger or loafer on board. This was the only 
hard-hearted thing I ever knew Mr. Brown to do. 

By these diminutions, we were short-handed for a voyage 
round Cape Horn in the dead of winter. Beside Stimson and 
myself, there were only five in the forecastle ; who, together 
with four boys in the steerage, the sailmaker, carpenter, cook, 

304 



HOMEWARD BOUND 305 

and steward, composed the crew. In addition to this, we were 
only four days out, when the sailmaker, who was the oldest 
and best seaman on board, was taken with the palsy, and was 
useless for the rest of the voyage. The constant wading in 
the water, in all weathers, to take off hides, together with the 
other labours, is too much for men even in middle life, and for 
any who have not good constitutions. (Beside these two men 
of ours, the second officer of the California and the carpenter 
of the Pilgrim, as we afterwards learned, broke down under 
the work, and the latter died at Santa Barbara. The young 
man, too, Henry Melius, who came out with us from Boston 
in the Pilgrim, had to be taken from his berth before the mast 
and made clerk, on account of a fit of rheumatism which at- 
tacked him soon after he came upon the coast.) By the loss 
of the sailmaker, our watch was reduced to five, of whom two 
were boys, who never steered but in fine weather, so that the 
other two and myself had to stand at the wheel four hours 
apiece out of every twenty-four ; and the other watch had only 
four helmsmen. " Never mind, — we 're homeward bound ! " 
was the answer to everything ; and we should not have minded 
this, were it not for the thought that we should be off Cape 
Horn in the very dead of winter. It was now the first part 
of May ; and two months would bring us oflF the Cape in July, 
which is the worst month in the year there ; when the sun 
rises at nine and sets at three, giving eighteen hours night, 
and there is snow and rain, gales and high seas, in abundance. 
The prospect of meeting this in a ship half manned, and 
loaded so deep that every heavy sea must wash her fore and 
aft, was by no means pleasant. The Alert, in her passage 
out, doubled the Cape in the month of February, which is 
midsummer ; and we came round in the Pilgrim in the latter 
part of October, which we thought was bad enough. There 
was only one of our crew who had been off there in the winter, 
and that was in a whale-ship, much lighter and higher than 
our ship ; yet he said they had man-killing weather for twenty 
days without intermission, and their decks were swept twice, 



306 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and they were all glad enough to see the last of it. The 
Brandywine frigate, also, in her recent passage round, had 
sixty days off the Cape, and lost several boats by the heavy 
seas. All this was for our comfort ; yet pass it we must ; and 
all hands agreed to make the best of it. 

During our watches below we overhauled our clothes, and 
made and mended everything for bad weather. Each of us 
had made for himself a suit of oil-cloth or tarpaulin, and these 
we got out, and gave thorough coatings of oil or tar, and hung 
upon the stays to dry. Our stout boots, too, we covered over 
with a thick mixture of melted grease and tar. Thus we took 
advantage of the warm sun and fine weather of the Pacific to 
prepare for its other face. In the forenoon watches below, 
our forecastle looked like the workshop of what a sailor is, — a 
J ack-at-all- trades. Thick stockings and drawers were darned 
and patched ; mittens dragged from the bottom of the chest 
and mended ; comforters made for the neck and ears ; old 
flannel shirts cut up to line monkey-jackets ; southwesters 
were lined with flannel, and a pot of paint smuggled forward 
to give them a coat on the outside ; and everything turned to 
hand ; so that, although two years had left us but a scanty 
wardrobe, yet the economy and invention which necessity 
teaches a sailor soon put each of us in pretty good trim for 
bad weather, before we had seen the last of the fine. Even 
the cobbler's art was not out of place. Several old shoes were 
very decently repaired, and with waxed ends, an awl, and the 
top of an old boot, I made me quite a respectable sheath for 
my knife. 

There was one difficulty, however, which nothing that we 
could do would remedy ; and that was the leaking of the fore- 
castle, which made it very uncomfortable in bad weather, and 
rendered half of the berths tenantless. The tightest ships, in 
a long voyage, from the constant strain which is upon the bow- 
sprit, will leak more or less round the heel of the bowsprit 
and the bitts, which come down into the forecastle ; but, in 
addition to this, we had an unaccountable leak on the star- 



HOMEWARD BOUND 307 

board bow, near the cat -head, which drove us from the for- 
ward berths on that side, and, indeed, when she was on the 
starboard tack, from all the forward berths. One of the after 
berths, too, leaked in very bad weather; so that, in a ship 
which was in other respects unusually tight, and brought her 
cargo to Boston perfectly dry, we had, after every effort made 
to prevent it, in the way of calking and leading, a forecastle 
with only three dry berths for seven of us. However, as there 
is never but one watch below at a time, by " turning in and 
out," we did pretty well. And there being in our watch but 
three of us who lived forward, we generally had a dry berth 
apiece in bad weather.^ 

All this, however, was but anticipation. We were still in 
fine weather in the North Pacific, running down the north- 
east trades, which we took on the second day after leaving 
San Diego. 

Sunday y May i^th, one week out, we were in latitude 14"* 
56' N., Ion. 116° 14' W., having gone, by reckoning, over 
thirteen hundred miles in seven days. In fact, ever since 
leaving San Diego, we had had a fair wind, and as much as 
we wanted of it. For seven days our lower and topmast 
studding-sails were set all the time, and our royals and top- 
gallant studding-sails whenever she could stagger under them. 
Indeed, the captain had shown, from the moment we got to 
sea, that he was to have no boy's play, but that the ship was 
to carry all she could, and that he was going to make up by 
" cracking on " to her what she wanted in lightness. In this 
way we frequently made three degrees of latitude, besides 
something in longitude, in the course of twenty-four hours. 
Our days we spent in the usual ship's work. The rigging 
which had become slack from being long in port was to be set 

I On removing the cat -head, after the ship arrived at Boston, it was found 
that there were two holes under it which had been bored for the purpose of driv- 
ing treenails, and which, accidentally, had not been plugged up when the cat-head 
was placed over them. This provoking little piece of negligence caused us great 
discomfort. 



308 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

up ; breast backstays got up ; studding-sail booms rigged 
upon the main yard ; and royal studding-sails got ready for 
the light trades ; ring-tail set ; and new rigging fitted, and 
sails made ready for Cape Horn. For, with a ship's gear, as 
well as a sailor's wardrobe, fine weather must be improved to 
get ready for the bad to come. Our forenoon watch below, 
as I have said, was given to our own work, and our night 
watches were spent in the usual manner, — a trick at the 
wheel, a lookout on the forecastle, a nap on a coil of rigging 
under the lee of the rail ; a yarn round the windlass-end ; or, 
as was generally my way, a solitary walk fore and aft, in the 
weather waist, between the windlass-end and the main tack. 
Every wave that she threw aside brought us nearer home, and 
every day's observation at noon showed a progress which, if it 
continued, would, in less than five months, take us into Boston 
Bay. This is the pleasure of life at sea, — fine weather, day 
after day, without interruption, — fair wind, and a plenty of 
it, — and homeward bound. Every one was in good humour ; 
things went right ; and all was done with a will. At the dog 
watch, all hands came on deck, and stood round the weather 
side of the forecastle, or sat upon the windlass, and sung sea- 
songs and those ballads of pirates and highwaymen which 
sailors delight in. Home, too, and what we should do when 
we got there, and when and how we should arrive, was no in- 
frequent topic. Every night, after the kids and pots were put 
away, and we had lighted our pipes and cigars at the galley, 
and gathered about the windlass, the first question was, — 
" Well, Dana, what was the latitude to-day ? " 
" Why, fourteen, north ; and she has been going seven 
knots ever since." 

"Well, this will bring us to the line in five days." 
" Yes, but these trades won't last twenty-four hours longer," 
says an old salt, pointing with the sharp of his hand to lee- 
ward ; " I know that by the look of the clouds." 

Then came all manner of calculations and conjectures as to 
the continuance of the wind, the weather under the line, the 



OUR PASSENGER, PROFESSOR NUTTALL 309 

southeast trades, etc., and rough guesses as to the time the 
ship would be up with the Horn ; and some, more venturous, 
gave her so many days to Boston Light, and offered to bet 
that she would not exceed it. 

" You 'd better wait till you get round Cape Horn," says an 
old croaker. 

" Yes," says another, "you may see Boston, but you 've got 
to * smell hell ' before that good day." 

Rumours also of what had been said in the cabin, as usual, 
found their way forward. The steward had heard the captain 
say something about the Straits of Magellan, and the man at 
the wheel fancied he had heard him tell the "passenger" 
that, if he found the wind ahead and the weather very bad off 
the Cape, he should stick her off for New Holland, and come 
home round the Cape of Good Hope. 

This passenger — the first and only one we had had, ex- 
cept to go from port to port, on the coast — was no one else 
than a gentleman whom I had known in my smoother days, 
and the last person I should have expected to see on the coast 
of California, — Professor Nuttall, of Cambridge. I had left 
him quietly seated in the chair of Botany and Ornithology in 
Harvard University, and the next I saw of him, he was stroll- 
ing about San Diego beach, in a sailor's pea-jacket, with a 
wide straw hat, and barefooted, with his trousers rolled up to 
his knees, picking up stones and shells. He had travelled 
overland to the Northwest Coast, and come down in a small 
vessel to Monterey. There he learned that there was a ship 
at the leeward about to sail for Boston, and, taking passage in 
the Pilgrim, which was then at Monterey, he came slowly 
along, visiting the intermediate ports, and examining the 
trees, plants, earths, birds, etc., and joined us at San Diego 
shortly before we sailed. The second mate of the Pilgrim 
told me that they had an old gentleman on board who knew 
me, and came from the college that I had been in. He could 
not recollect his name, but said he was a " sort of an oldish 
man," with white hair, and spent all his time in the bush, and 



310 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

along the beach, picking up flowers and shells and such truck, 
and had a dozen boxes and barrels full of them. I thought 
over everybody who would be likely to be there, but could fix 
upon no one ; when, the next day, just as we were about to 
shove off from the beach, he came down to the boat in the rig 
I have described, with his shoes in his hand, and his pockets 
full of specimens. I knew him at once, though I should 
hardly have been more surprised to have seen the Old South 
steeple shoot up from the hide-house. He probably had no 
more difficulty in recognizing me. As we left home about 
the same time, we had nothing to tell each other ; and, owing 
to our different situations on board, I saw but little of him on 
the passage home. Sometimes, when I was at the wheel of a 
calm night, and the steering required little attention, and the 
officer of the watch was forward, he would come aft and hold a 
short yarn with me ; but this was against the rules of the ship, 
as is, in fact, all intercourse between passengers and the crew. 
I was often amused to see the sailors puzzled to know what 
to make of him, and to hear their conjectures about him and 
his business. They were as much at a loss as our old sail- 
maker was with the captain's instruments in the cabin. He 
said there were three, — the chro-nometer, the chre-nometer, 
and the the-nometer. The Pilgrim's crew called Mr. Nuttall 
'' Old Curious," from his zeal for curiosities ; and some of them 
said that he was crazy, and that his friends let him go about 
and amuse himself in this way. Why else a rich man (sailors 
call every man rich who does not work with his hands, and 
who wears a long coat and cravat) should leave a Christian 
country and come to such a place as California to pick up 
shells and stones, they could not understand. One of them, 
however, who had seen something more of the world ashore, 
set all to rights, as he thought ; '' O, 'vast there ; You don't 
know anything about them craft. I 've seen them colleges and 
know the ropes. They keep all such things for cur'osities, 
and study 'em, and have men a purpose to go and get 'em. 
This old chap knows what he 's about. He a'n't the child you 



OUR PASSENGER, PROFESSOR NUTTALL 311 

take him for. He'll carry all these things to the college, and 
if they are better than any that they have had before, he '11 
be head of the college. Then, by and by, somebody else will 
go after some more, and if they beat him he '11 have to go 
again, or else give up his berth. That 's the way they do 
it. This old covey knows the ropes. He has worked a 
traverse over 'em, and come 'way out here where nobody 's 
ever been afore, and where they '11 never think of coming." 
This explanation satisfied Jack ; and as it raised Mr. Nuttall's 
credit, and was near enough to the truth for common pur- 
poses, I did not disturb it. 

With the exception of Mr. Nuttall, we had no one on board 
but the regular ship's company and the live stock. Upon the 
stock we had made a considerable inroad. We killed one of 
the bullocks every four days, so that they did not last us up 
to the line. We, or rather the cabin, then began upon the 
sheep and the poultry, for these never come into Jack's mess.' 
The pigs were left for the latter part of the voyage, for they 
are sailors, and can stand all weathers. We had an old sow 
on board, the mother of a numerous progeny, who had been 
twice round the Cape of Good Hope and once round Cape 
Horn. The last time going round was very nearly her death. 
We heard her squealing and moaning one dark night after it 
had been snowing and hailing for several hours, and, climbing 
over into the sty, we found her nearly frozen to death. We 

I The customs as to the allowance of " grub " are very nearly the same in all 
American merchantmen. Whenever a pig is killed, the sailors have one mess from 
it. The rest goes to the cabin. The smaller live stock, poultry, etc., the sailors 
never taste. And indeed they do not complain of this, for it would take a great 
deal to supply them with a good meal; and without the accompaniments (which 
could hardly be furnished to them), it would not be much better than salt beef. 
But even as to the salt beef they are scarcely dealt fairly with; for whenever a 
barrel is opened, before any of the beef is put into the harness-cask, the steward 
comes up and picks it all over, and takes out the best pieces (those that have any 
fat in them) for the cabin. This was done in both the vessels I was in, and the 
men said that it was usual in other vessels. Indeed, it is made no secret, and some 
of the crew are usually called to help in assorting and putting away the pieces. By 
this arrangement the hard, dry pieces, which the sailors call "old horse," come 
to their share. There is a singular piece of rhyme, traditional among sailors, 



312 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

got some straw, an old sail, and other things, and wrapped her 
up in a corner of the sty, where she stayed until we came into 
fine weather again. 

Wednesday, May i8th. Lat. 9° 54' N., Ion. 113° \j' W. 
The northeast trades had now left us, and we had the usual 
variable winds, the ''doldrums," which prevail near the line, 
together with some rain. So long as we were in these lati- 
tudes, we had but little rest in our watch on deck at night ; 
for, as the winds were light and variable, and we could not 
lose a breath, we were all the watch bracing the yards, and 
taking in and making sail, and ''humbugging" with our flying 
kites. A little puff of wind on the larboard quarter, and then 
— "larboard fore braces!" — and studding-sails booms were 
rigged out, studding sails set alow and aloft, the yards trimmed, 
and jibs and spanker in ; when it would come as calm as a 
duck-pond, the man at the wheel standing with the palm of 
his hand up, feeling for the wind. " Keep her off a little ! " 
"All aback forward, sir!" cries a man from the forecastle. 
Down go the braces again ; in come the studding-sails, all in a 
mess, which half an hour won't set right ; yards braced sharp 
up, and she 's on the starboard tack, close-hauled. The 
studding-sails must now be cleared away, and set up in the 

which they say over such pieces of beef. I do not know that it ever appeared 
in print before. When seated round the kid, if a particularly bad piece is found, 
one of them takes it up, and addresses it thus : — 

" * Old horse ! old horse ! what brought you here ? ' 
' From Sacarap' to Portland Pier 
I 've carted stone this many a year ; 
Till, killed by blows and sore abuse, 
They salted me down for sailors' use. 
The sailors they do me despise ; 
They turn me over and damn my eyes ; 
Cut off my meat, and scrape my bones, 
And pitch me over to Davy Jones.' " 

There is a story current among seamen, that a beef-dealer was convicted, at 
Boston, of having sold old horse for ship's stores, instead of beef, and had been 
sentenced to be confined in jail until he should eat the whole of it; and that he is 
now lying in Boston jail. I have heard this story often, on board other vessels 
besides those of our own nation. It is very generally beheved, and is always highly 
commended, as a fair instance of retaUatory justice. 



HOMEWARD BOUND 313 

tops and on the booms, and the gear cut off and made fast. 
By the time this is done, and you are looking out for a 
soft plank for a nap, — " Lay aft here, and square in the 
head yards ! " and the studding-sails are all set again on the 
starboard side. So it goes until it is eight bells, — call the 
watch, — heave the log — relieve the wheel, and go below the 
larboard watch. 

Sunday, May 22d. Lat. 5° 14' N., Ion. 166° 45' W. We 
were now a fortnight out, and within five degrees of the line, to 
which two days of good breeze would take us ; but we had, for 
the most part, what the sailors call " an Irishman's hurricane, 
— right up and down." This day it rained nearly all day, and, 
being Sunday and nothing to do, we stopped up the scuppers 
and filled the decks with rain water, and, bringing all our 
clothes on deck, had a grand wash, fore and aft. When this 
was through, we stripped to our drawers, and taking pieces of 
soap, with strips of canvas for towels, we turned-to and soaped, 
washed, and scrubbed one another down, to get off, as we said 
the California grime ; for the common wash in salt water, 
which is all that Jack can get, being on an allowance of fresh, 
had little efficacy, and was more for taste than utility. The 
captain was below all the afternoon, and we had something 
nearer to Saturnalia than anything we had yet seen ; for the 
mate came into the scuppers, with a couple of boys to scrub 
him, and got into a contest with them in heaving water. By 
unplugging the holes, we let the soapsuds off the decks, and in 
a short time had a new supply of clear rain water, in which 
we had a grand rinsing. It was surprising to see how much 
soap and fresh water did for the complexions of many of us ; 
how much of what we supposed to be tan and sea-blacking 
we got rid of. The next day, the sun rising clear, the ship 
was covered, fore and aft, with clothes of all sorts, hanging 
out to dry. 

As we approached the line, the wind became more east- 
erly, and the weather clearer, and in twenty days from San 
Diego, -— 



314 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Saturday, May 28th, at about three P. M., with a fine breeze 
from the east-southeast, we crossed the equator. In twenty- 
four hours after crossing the line, we took, which was very 
unusual, the regular southeast trades. These winds come a 
little from the eastward of southeast, and with us they blew 
directly from the east-southeast, which was fortunate for us, 
as our course was south-by-west, and we could thus go one 
point free. The yards were braced so that every sail drew, 
from the spanker to the flying-jib; and, the upper yards be- 
ing squared in a little, the fore and main top-gallant stud- 
ding-sails were set, and drew handsomely. For twelve days 
this breeze blew steadily, not varying a point, and just so 
fresh that we could carry our royals ; and during the whole 
time we hardly started a brace. Such progress did we make 
that at the end of seven days from the time we took the 
breeze, on — 

Sunday, June §th, we were in lat. 19° 29' S., and Ion. 118° 
01' W., having made twelve hundred miles in seven days, very 
nearly upon a taut bowline. Our good ship was getting to be 
herself again, and had increased her rate of sailing more than 
one third since leaving San Diego. The crew ceased complain- 
ing of her, and the officers hove the log every two hours with 
evident satisfaction. This was glorious sailing. A steady 
breeze ; the light tradewind clouds over our heads ; the incom- 
parable temperature of the Pacific, — neither hot nor cold ; a 
clear sun every day, and clear moon and stars every night, 
and new constellations rising in the south, and the familiar 
one sinking in the north, as we went on our course, — " stem- 
ming nightly toward the pole." Already we had sunk the 
North Star and the Great Bear, while the Southern Cross ap- 
peared well above the southern horizon, and all hands looked 
out sharp to the southward for the Magellan Clouds, which, 
each succeeding night, we expected to make. " The next 
time we see the North Star," said one "we shall be stand- 
ing to the northward, the other side of the Horn." This 
was true enough, and no doubt it would be a welcome sight. 



HOMEWARD BOUND 315 

for sailors say that in coming home from round Cape Horn, 
or the Cape of Good Hope, the North Star is the first land 
you make. 

These trades were the same that in the passage out in the 
Pilgrim, lasted nearly all the way from Juan Fernandez to the 
line; blowing steadily on our starboard quarter for three 
weeks, without our starting a brace, or even brailing down the 
skysails. Though we had now the same wind, and were in 
the same latitude with the Pilgrim on her passage out, yet we 
were nearly twelve hundred miles to the westward of her 
course ; for the captain, depending upon the strong southwest 
winds which prevail in high southern latitudes during the 
winter months, took the full advantage of the trades, and 
stood well to the westward, so far that we passed within about 
two hundred miles of Ducie's Island. 

It was this weather and sailing that brought to my mind 
a little incident that occurred on board the Pilgrim, while we 
were in the same latitude. We were going along at a great 
rate, dead before the wind, with studding-sails out on both 
sides, alow and aloft, on a dark night, just after midnight, and 
everything as still as the grave, except the washing of the 
water by the vessel's side ; for, being before the wind, with 
a smooth sea, the little brig, covered with canvas, was doing 
great business with very little noise. The other watch was 
below, and all our watch, except myself and the man at the 
wheel, were asleep under the lee of the boat. The second 
mate, who came out before the mast, and was always very 
thick with me, had been holding a yarn with me, and just gone 
aft to his place on the quarter-deck, and I had resumed my 
usual walk to and from the windlass-end, when, suddenly, we 
heard a loud scream coming from ahead, apparently directly 
from under the bows. 

The darkness, and complete stillness of the night, and the 
solitude of the ocean, gave to the sound a dreadful and 
almost supernatural effect. I stood perfectly still, and my 
heart beat quick. The sound woke up the rest of the watch, 



3l6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

who stood looking at one another. "What, in the name 
of God, is that ? " said the second mate, coming slowly 
forward. The first thought I had was, that it might be a 
boat, with the crew of some wrecked vessel, or perhaps the 
boat of some whale-ship, out over night, and we had run it 
down in the darkness. Another scream ! but less loud than 
the first. This started us, and we ran forward, and looked 
over the bows, and over the sides, to leeward, but nothing 
was to be seen or heard. What was to be done .<* Heave the 
ship aback, and call the captain ? 

Just at this moment, in crossing the forecastle, one of the 
men saw a light below, and, looking down the scuttle, saw 
the watch all out of their berths, and afoul of one poor fellow, 
dragging him out of his berth, and shaking him, to wake him 
out of a nightmare. They had been waked out of their sleep, 
and as much alarmed at the scream as we were, and were 
hesitating whether to come on deck, when the second sound, 
proceeding directly from one of the berths, revealed the cause 
of the alarm. The fellow got a good shaking for the trouble 
he had given. We made a joke of the matter ; and we could 
well laugh, for our minds were not a little relieved by its 
ridiculous termination. 

We were now close upon the southern tropical line, and, 
with so fine a breeze, were daily leaving the sun behind us, 
and drawing nearer to Cape Horn, for which it behooved us 
to make every preparation. Our rigging was all overhauled 
and mended, or changed for new, where it was necessary ; new 
and strong bobstays fitted in the place of the chain ones, which 
were worn out ; the spritsail yard and martingale guys and 
back-ropes set well taut ; bran-new fore and main braces rove ; 
top-gallant sheets, and wheelropes, made of green hide, laid up 
in the form of rope, were stretched and fitted ; and new top- 
sail clew-lines, etc., rove ; new fore-topmast backstays fitted ; 
and other preparations made in good season, that the ropes 
might have time to stretch and become limber before we got 
into cold weather. 



HOMEWARD BOUND 31/ 

Sunday y June 12th. Lat. 26° 04' S., Ion. 116° 31' W. 
We had now lost the regular trades, and had the winds vari- 
able, principally from the westward, and kept on in a southerly 
course, sailing very nearly upon a meridian, and at the end of 
the week, — 

Sunday, June igth, were in lat. 34° 15' S., and Ion. 
116° 38' W. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

THERE began now to be a decided change in the appear- 
ance of things. The days became shorter and shorter ; 
the sun running lower in its course each day, and giv- 
ing less and less heat, and the nights so cold as to prevent 
our sleeping on deck ; the Magellan Clouds in sight, of a 
clear, moonless night ; the skies looking cold and angry ; and, 
at times, a long, heavy, ugly sea, setting in from the south- 
ward, told us what we were coming to. Still, however, we 
had a fine, strong breeze, and kept on our way under as much 
sail as our ship would bear. Toward the middle of the week, 
the wind hauled to the southward, which brought us upon a 
taut bowline, made the ship meet, nearly head-on, the heavy 
swell which rolled from that quarter ; and there was some- 
thing not at all encouraging in the manner in which she met 
it. Being still so deep and heavy, she wanted the buoyancy 
which should have carried her over the seas, and she dropped 
heavily into them, the water washing over the decks ; and 
every now and then, when an unusually large sea met her 
fairly upon the bows, she struck it with a sound as dead and 
heavy as that with which a sledge-hammer falls upon the pile, 
and took the whole of it in upon the forecastle, and, rising, 
carried it aft in the scuppers, washing the rigging off the 
pins, and carrying along with it everything which was loose 
on deck. She had been acting in this way all of our fore- 
noon watch below ; as we could tell by the washing of the 
water over our heads, and the heavy breaking of the seas 
against her bows, only the thickness of a plank from our heads, 
as we lay in our berths, which are directly against the bows. 
At eight bells, the watch was called, and we came on deck, 
one hand going aft to take the wheel, and another going to 

318 



I 



BAD PROSPECTS 319 

the galley to get the grub for dinner. I stood on the fore- 
castle, looking at the seas, which were rolling high, as far as 
the eye could reach, their tops white with foam, and the body 
of them of a deep indigo blue, reflecting the bright rays of the 
sun. Our ship rose slowly over a few of the largest of them, 
until one immense fellow came rolling on, threatening to cover 
her, and which I was sailor enough to know, by the "feeling 
of her " under my feet, she would not rise over. I sprang 
upon the knight-heads, and, seizing hold of the fore-stay, drew 
myself up upon it. My feet were just off the stanchion when 
the bow struck fairly into the middle of the sea, and it washed 
the ship fore and aft, burying her in the water. As soon as 
she rose out of it, I looked aft, and everything forward of the 
mainmast, except the long-boat, which was griped and double- 
lashed down to the ring-bolts, was swept off clear. The galley, 
the pigsty, the hen-coop, and a large sheep-pen which had been 
built upon the fore-hatch, were all gone in the twinkling of an 
eye, — leaving the deck as clean as a chin new reaped, — and 
not a stick left to show where anything had stood. In the 
scuppers lay the galley, bottom up, and a few boards floating 
about, — the wreck of the sheep-pen, — and half a dozen mis- 
erable sheep floating among them, wet through, and not a 
little frightened at the sudden change that had come upon 
them. As soon as the sea had washed by, all hands sprang 
up out of the forecastle to see what had become of the ship ; 
and in a few moments the cook and Old Bill crawled out from 
under the galley, where they had been lying in the water, 
nearly smothered, with the galley over them. Fortunately, it 
rested against the bulwarks, or it would have broken some of 
their bones. When the water ran off, we picked the sheep 
up, and put them in the long-boat, got the galley back in its 
place, and set things a little to rights ; but, had not our ship 
had uncommonly high bulwarks and rail, everything must have 
been washed overboard, not excepting Old Bill and the cook. 
Bill had been standing at the galley-door, with the kid of beef 
in his hand for the forecastle mess, when away he went, kid, 



320 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

beef, and all. He held on to the kid to the last, like a good 
fellow, but the beef was gone, and when the water had run off 
we saw it lying high and dry, like a rock at low tide, — nothing 
could hurt that. We took the loss of our beef very easily, 
consoling ourselves with the recollection that the cabin had 
more to lose than we ; and chuckled not a little at seeing the 
remains of the chicken-pie and pancakes floating in the scup- 
pers. "This will never do ! " was what some said, and every 
one felt. Here we were, not yet within a thousand miles of 
the latitude of Cape Horn, and our decks swept by a sea not 
one half so high as we must expect to find there. Some 
blamed the captain for loading his ship so deep when he knew 
what he must expect ; while others said that the wind was 
always southwest, off the Cape, in the winter, and that, run- 
ning before it, we should not mind the seas so much. When 
we got down into the forecastle. Old Bill, who was somewhat 
of a croaker, — having met with a great many accidents at 
sea, — said that, if that was the way she was going to act, we 
might as well make our wills, and balance the books at once, 
and put on a clean shirt. " 'Vast there, you bloody old owl ! 
you 're always hanging out blue lights ! You 're frightened 
by the ducking you got in the scuppers, and can't take a joke ! 
What 's the use in being always on the lookout for Davy 
Jones ? " " Stand by ! " says another, "and we'll get an after- 
noon watch below, by this scrape " ; but in this they were dis- 
appointed, for at two bells all hands were called and set to 
work, getting lashings upon everything on deck ; and the cap- 
tain talked of sending down the long top-gallant-masts ; but as 
the sea went down toward night, and the wind hauled abeam, 
we left them standing, and set the studding-sails. 

The next day all hands were turned-to upon unbending the 
old sails, and getting up the new ones ; for a ship, unlike 
people on shore, puts on her best suit in bad weather. The 
old sails were sent down, and three new topsails, and new fore 
and main courses, jib, and fore-topmast staysail, which were 
made on the coast and never had been used, were bent, with 



BAD PROSPECTS 321 

a complete set of new earings, robands, and reef-points ; and 
reef-tackles were rove to the courses, and spilling-lines to the 
topsails. These, with new braces and clew-lines fore and aft, 
gave us a good suit of running rigging. 

The wind continued westerly, and the weather and sea less 
rough since the day on which we shipped the heavy sea, and we 
were making great progress under studding-sails, with our light 
sails all set, keeping a little to the eastward of south ; for the 
captain, depending upon westerly winds off the Cape, had kept 
so far to the westward that, though we were within about five 
hundred miles of the latitude of Cape Horn, we were nearly 
seventeen hundred miles to the westward of it. Through the 
rest of the week we continued on with a fair wind, gradually, 
as we got more to the southward, keeping a more easterly 
course, and bringing the wind on our larboard quarter, until — 

Sunday, June 26th, when, having a fine, clear day, the cap- 
tain got a lunar observation, as well as his meridian altitude, 
which made us in lat. 47° and 50' S., Ion. 113° 49' W. ; Cape 
Horn bearing, according to my calculations, E. S. E. ^ E., 
and distant eighteen hundred miles. 

Monday, June 2yth. During the first part of this day 
the wind continued fair, and, as we were going before it, did 
not feel very cold, so that we kept at work on deck in our com- 
mon clothes, and round jackets. Our watch had an afternoon 
watch below for the first time since leaving San Diego ; and, 
having inquired of the third mate what the latitude was at 
noon, and made our usual guesses as to the time she would 
need to be up with the Horn, we turned-in for a nap. We 
were sleeping away " at the rate of knots," when three knocks 
on the scuttle and ''All hands, ahoy!" started us from our 
berths. What could be the matter .-* It did not appear to be 
blowing hard, and, looking up through the scuttle, we could 
see that it was a clear day overhead; yet the watch were 
taking in sail. We thought there must be a sail in sight, and 
that we were about to heave-to and speak her ; and were just 
congratulating ourselves upon it, — for we had seen neither 



322 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

sail nor land since we left port, — when we heard the mate's 
voice on deck (heturned-in "all-standing," and was always on 
deck the moment he was called) singing out to the men who 
were taken in the studding-sails, and asking where his watch 
were. We did not wait for a second call, but tumbled up the 
ladder ; and there, on the starboard bow, was a bank of mist, 
covering sea and sky, and driving directly for us. I had seen 
the same before in my passage round in the Pilgrim, and knew 
what it meant, and that there was no time to be lost. We 
had nothing on but thin clothes, yet there was not a moment 
to spare, and at it we went. 

The boys of the other watch were in the tops, taking in the 
top-gallant studding-sails and the lower and topmast studding- 
sails were coming down by the run. It was nothing but " haul 
down and clew up," until we got all the studding-sails in, and 
the royals, flying jib, and mizzen top-gallant-sail furled, and the 
ship kept off a little, to take the squall. The fore and main 
top-gallant sails were still on her, for the "old man" did not 
mean to be frightened in broad daylight, and was determined 
to carry sail till the last minute. We all stood waiting for its 
coming, when the first blast showed us that it was not to be 
trifled with. Rain, sleet, snow, and wind enough to take our 
breath from us, and make the toughest turn his back to wind- 
ward ! The ship lay nearly over upon her beam-ends ; the 
spars and rigging snapped and cracked ; and her top-gallant- 
masts bent like whip-sticks. " Clew up the fore and main- 
top-gallant-sails ! " shouted the captain, and all hands sprang to 
the clew-lines. The decks were standing nearly at an angle 
of forty-five degrees, and the ship going like a mad steed 
through the water, the whole forward part of her in a smother 
of foam. The halyards were let go, and the yard clewed down, 
and the sheets started, and in a few minutes the sails smothered 
and kept in by clewlines and buntlines. "Furl 'em, sir.!*" 
asked the mate. " Let go the topsail halyards, fore and af t ! " 
shouted the captain in answer, at the top of his voice. Down 
came the topsail yards, the reef-tackles were manned and 



FIRST TOUCH OF CAPE HORN 323 

hauled out, and we climbed up to windward, and sprang 
into the weather rigging. The violence of the wind, and the 
hail and sleet, driving nearly horizontally across the ocean, 
seemed actually to pin us down to the rigging. It was hard 
work making head against them. One after another we got 
out upon the yards. And here we had work to do ; for our new 
sails had hardly been bent long enough to get the stiffness 
out of them, and the new earings and reef -points, stiffened with 
the sleet, knotted like pieces of iron wire. Having only our 
round jackets and straw hats on, we were soon wet through, and 
it was every moment growing colder. Our hands were soon 
numbed, which, added to the stiffness of everything else, kept 
us a good while on the yard. After we had got the sail hauled 
upon the yard, we had to wait a long time for the weather 
earing to be passed ; but there was no fault to be found, for 
French John was at the earing, and a better sailor never laid 
out on a yard ; so we leaned over the yard and beat our hands 
upon the sail to keep them from freezing. At length the word 
came, " Haul out to leeward," and we seized the reef -points 
and hauled the band taut for the lee earing. ** Taut band — 
knot away," and we got the first reef fast, and were just going 
to lay down, when — "Two reefs — two reefs ! " shouted the 
mate, and we had a second reef to take, in the same way. 
When this was fast we went down on deck, manned the hal- 
yards to leeward, nearly up to our knees in water, set the top- 
sail, and then laid aloft on the main topsail yard, and reefed 
that sail in the same manner ; for, as I have before stated, we 
were a good deal reduced in numbers, and, to make it worse, 
the carpenter, only two days before, had cut his leg with an 
axe, so that he could not go aloft. This weakened us so that 
we could not well manage more than one topsail at a time, in 
such weather as this, and, of course, each man's labour was 
doubled. From the main topsail yard, we went upon the main 
yard, and took a reef in the mainsail. No sooner had we got 
on deck than — "Lay aloft there, and close-reef mizzen top- 
sail ! " This called me ; and, being nearest to the rigging, I 



324 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

got first aloft, and out to the weather earing. English Ben 
was up just after me, and took the lee earing, and the rest of 
our gang were soon on the yard, and began to fist the sail, 
when the mate considerately sent up the cook and steward to 
help us. I could now account for the long time it took to pass 
the other earings, for, to do my best, with a strong hand to 
help me at the dog's ear, I could not get it passed until I 
heard them beginning to complain in the bunt. One reef 
after another we took in, until the sail was close-reefed, when 
we went down and hoisted away at the halyards. In the mean 
time, the jib had been furled and the staysail set, and the ship 
under her reduced sail had got more upright, and was under 
management ; but the two top-gallant-sails were still hanging in 
the buntlines, and slatting and jerking as though they would 
take the masts out of her. We gave a look aloft, and knew 
that our work was not done yet ; and, sure enough, no sooner 
did the mate see that we were on deck than — " Lay aloft 
there, four of you, and furl the top-gallant-sails ! " This 
called me again, and two of us went aloft up the fore rigging, 
and two more up the main, upon the top-gallant yards. The 
shrouds were now iced over, the sleet having formed a crust 
round all the standing rigging, and on the weather side of the 
masts and yards. When we got upon the yard, my hands 
were so numb that I could not have cast off the knot of the 
gasket if it were to save my life. We both lay over the yard 
for a few seconds, beating our hands upon the sail, until we 
started the blood into our fingers' ends, and at the next 
moment our hands were in a burning heat. My companion 
on the yard was a lad (the boy, George Somerby), who came 
out in the ship a weak, puny boy, from one of the Boston 
schools, — "no larger than a spritsail-sheet knot," nor "heavier 
than a paper of lamp-black," and "not strong enough to haul a 
shad off a gridiron," but who was now, "as long as a spare top- 
mast, strong enough to knock down an ox, and hearty enough 
to eat him." We fisted the sail together, and, after six or 
eight minutes of hard hauling and pulling and beating down 



FIRST TOUCH OF CAPE HORN 325 

the sail, which was about as stiff as sheet-iron, we managed to 
get it furled ; and snugly furled it must be, for we knew the 
mate well enough to be certain that if it got adrift again we 
should be called up from our watch below, at any hour of the 
night, to furl it. 

I had been on the lookout for a chance to jump below and 
clap on a thick jacket and a southwest er ; but when we got on 
deck we found that eight bells had been struck, and the other 
watch gone below, so that there were two hours of dog watch 
for us, and a plenty of work to do. It had now set in for a 
steady gale from the southwest ; but we were not yet far 
enough to the southward to make a fair wind of it, for we 
must give Terra del Fuego a wide berth. The decks were 
covered with snow, and there was a constant driving of sleet. 
In fact. Cape Horn had set in with good earnest. In the 
midst of all this, and before it became dark, we had all the stud- 
ding-sails to make up and stow away, and then to lay aloft and 
rig in all the booms, fore and aft, and coil away the tacks, 
sheets and halyards. This was pretty tough work for four or 
five hands, in the face of a gale which almost took us off the 
yards, and with ropes so stiff with ice that it was almost im- 
possible to bend them. I was nearly half an hour out on 
the end of the fore yard, trying to coil away and stop down 
the topmast studding-sail tack and lower halyards. It was 
after dark when we got through, and we were not a little 
pleased to hear four bells struck, which sent us below for two 
hours, and gave us each a pot of hot tea with our cold beef 
and bread, and, what was better yet, a suit of thick, dry cloth- 
ing, fitted for the weather, in place of our thin clothes, which 
were wet through and frozen stiff. 

This sudden turn, for which we were so little prepared, 
was as unacceptable to me as to any of the rest ; for I had 
been troubled for several days with a slight toothache, and this 
cold weather and wetting and freezing were not the best things 
in the world for it. I soon found that it was getting strong 
hold, and running over all parts of my face ; and before the 



326 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

watch was out I went aft to the mate, who had charge of 
the medicine-chest, to get something for it. But the chest 
showed like the end of a long voyage, for there was nothing 
that would answer but a few drops of laudanum, which must 
be saved for an emergency ; so I had only to bear the pain as 
well as I could. 

When we went on deck at eight bells, it had stopped snow- 
ing, and there were a few stars out, but the clouds were still 
black, and it was blowing a steady gale. Just before midnight, 
I went aloft and sent down the mizzen royal yard, and had the 
good luck to do it to the satisfaction of the mate, who said it 
was done "out of hand and ship-shape." The next four hours 
below were but little relief to me, for I lay awake in my berth 
the whole time, from the pain in my face, and heard every bell 
strike, and, at four o'clock, turned out with the watch, feeling 
little spirit for the hard duties of the day. Bad weather and 
hard work at sea can be borne up against very well if one only 
has spirit and health ; but there is nothing brings a man down, 
at such at a time, like bodily pain and want of sleep. There 
was, however, too much to do to allow time to think ; for the 
gale of yesterday, and the heavy seas we met with a few days 
before, while we had yet ten degrees more southing to make, 
had convinced the captain that we had something before us 
which was not to be trifled with, and orders were given to send 
down the long top-gallant-masts. The top-gallant and royal 
yards were accordingly struck, the flying jib-boom rigged in, 
and the top-gallant-masts sent down on deck, and all lashed 
together by the side of the long-boat. The rigging was then 
sent down and coiled away below, and everything made snug 
aloft. There was not a sailor in the ship who was not rejoiced 
to see these sticks come down ; for, so long as the yards were 
aloft, on the least sign of a lull, the top-gallant-sails were loosed, 
and then we had to furl them again in a snow-squall, and shin 
up and down single ropes caked with ice, and send royal yards 
down in the teeth of a gale coming right from the south pole. 
It was an interesting sight, too, to see our noble ship, disman- 



i 



FIRST TOUCH OF CAPE HORN 32/ 

tied of all her top-hamper of long tapering masts and yards, and 
boom pointed with spear-head, which ornamented her in port ; 
and all that canvas, which a few days before had covered her 
like a cloud, from the truck to the water's edge, spreading far 
out beyond her hull on either side, now gone ; and she stripped, 
like a wrestler for the fight. It corresponded, too, with the 
desolate character of her situation, — alone, as she was, bat- 
tling with storms, wind, and ice, at this extremity of the globe, 
and in almost constant night. 

Friday, July ist. We were now nearly up to the latitude 
of Cape Horn, and having over forty degrees of easting to 
make, we squared away the yards before a strong westerly 
gale, shook a reef out of the fore topsail, and stood on our 
way, east-by-south, with the prospect of being up with the 
Cape in a week or ten days. As for myself, I had had no sleep 
for forty-eight hours ; and the want of rest, together with con- 
stant wet and cold, had increased the swelling, so that my face 
was nearly as large as two, and I found it impossible to get my 
mouth open wide enough to eat. In this state, the steward 
applied to the captain for some rice to boil for me, but he only 

got a — " No ! d you ! Tell him to eat salt junk and hard 

bread, like the rest of them." This was, in truth, what I ex- 
pected. However, I did not starve, for Mr. Brown, who was 
a man as well as a sailor, and had always been a good friend 
to me, smuggled a pan of rice into the galley, and told the 
cook to boil it for me, and not let the **old man" see it. Had 
it been fine weather, or in port, I should have gone below and 
lain by until my face got well ; but in such weather as this, 
and short-handed, as we were, it was not for me to desert my 
post ; so I kept on deck, and stood my watch and did my duty 
as well as I could. 

Saturday, July 2d. This day the sun rose fair, but it ran 
too low in the heavens to give any heat, or thaw out our sails 
and rigging ; yet the sight of it was pleasant ; and we had a 
steady " reef -topsail breeze" from the westward. The atmos- 
phere, which had previously been clear and cold, for the last 



328 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

few hours grew damp, and had a disagreeable, wet chilHness in 
it ; and the man who came from the wheel said he heard the 
captain tell ''the passenger" that the thermometer had fallen 
several degrees since morning, which he could not account 
for in any other way than by supposing that there must be ice 
near us ; though such a thing was rarely heard of in this lati- 
tude at this season of the year. At twelve o'clock we went 
below, and had just got through dinner, when the cook put his 
head down the scuttle and told us to come on deck and see 
the finest sight that we had ever seen. '' Where away. Doc- 
tor.?"' asked the first man who was up. "On the larboard 
bow." And there lay, floating in the ocean, several miles off, 
an immense, irregular mass, its top and points covered with 
snow, and its centre of a deep indigo colour. This was an 
iceberg, and of the largest size, as one of our men said who 
had been in the Northern Ocean. As far as the eye could 
reach, the sea in every direction was of a deep blue colour, 
the waves running high and fresh, and sparkling in the light, 
and in the midst lay this immense mountain-island, its cavities 
and valleys thrown into deep shade, and its points and pinna- 
cles glittering in the sun. All hands were soon on deck, look- 
ing at it, and admiring in various ways its beauty and grandeur. 
But no description can give any idea of the strangeness, splen- 
dour, and, really, the sublimity, of the sight. Its great size, 
— for it must have been from two to three miles in circumfer- 
ence, and several hundred feet in height, — its slow motion, as 
its base rose and sank in the water, and its high points nodded 
against the clouds ; the dashing of the waves upon it, which, 
breaking high with foam, lined its base with a white crust ; 
and the thundering sound of the cracking of the mass, and the 
breaking and tumbling down of huge pieces ; together with 
its nearness and approach, which added a slight element of 
fear, — all combined to give to it the character of true sub- 
limity. The main body of the mass was, as I have said, of an 
indigo colour, its base crusted with frozen foam ; and as it grew 

I The cook's title in all vessels. 



ICEBERGS 329 

thin and transparent toward the edges and top, its colour 
shaded off from a deep blue to the whiteness of snow. It 
seemed to be drifting slowly toward the north, so that we 
kept away and avoided it. It was in sight all the afternoon ; 
and when we got to leeward of it the wind died away, so that 
we lay-to quite near it for a greater part of the night. Unfor- 
tunately, there was no moon, but it was a clear night, and we 
could plainly mark the long, regular heaving of the stupendous 
mass, as' its edges moved slowly against the stars, now reveal- 
ing them, and now shutting them in. Several times in our 
watch loud cracks were heard, which sounded as though they 
must have run through the whole length of the iceberg, and 
several pieces fell down with a thundering crash, plunging 
heavily into the sea. Toward morning a strong breeze sprang 
up, and we filled away, and left it astern, and at daylight it 
was out of sight. The next day, which was — 

Sunday, Jtdy j, the breeze continued strong, the air ex- 
ceedingly chilly, and the thermometer low. In the course of 
the day we saw several icebergs of different sizes, but none 
so near as the one which we saw the day before. Some of 
them, as well as we could judge, at the distance at which we 
were, must have been as large as that, if not larger. At noon 
we were in latitude 55° 12' south, and supposed longitude 
89° 5' west. Toward night the wind hauled to the southward, 
and headed us off our course a little, and blew a tremendous 
gale ; but this we did not mind, as there was no rain nor snow, 
and we were already under close sail. 

Monday, July /fth. This was ** Independence Day" in 
Boston. What firing of guns, and ringing of bells, and rejoic- 
ings of all sorts, in every part of our country ! The ladies 
(who have not gone down to Nahant, for a breath of cool air 
and sight of the ocean) walking the streets with parasols over 
their heads, and the dandies in their white pantaloons and silk 
stockings ! What quantities of ice-cream have been eaten, and 
how many loads of ice brought into the city from a distance, 
and sold out by the lump and the pound ! The smallest of 



330 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the islands which we saw to-day would have made the fortune 
of poor Jack, if he had had it in Boston ; and I dare say he 
would have had no objection to being there with it. This, to 
be sure, was no place to keep the Fourth of July. To keep our- 
selves warm, and the ship out of the ice, was as much as we 
could do. Yet no one forgot the day; and many were the 
wishes and conjectures and comparisons, both serious and ludi- 
crous, which were made among all hands. The sun shone 
bright as long as it was up, only that a scud of black clouds 
was ever and anon driving across it. At noon we were in 
lat. 54° 2f S., and Ion. 85° 5' W., having made a good deal 
of easting, but having lost in our latitude by the heading off 
of the wind. Between daylight and dark — that is, between 
nine o'clock and three — we saw thirty-four ice islands of vari- 
ous sizes ; some no bigger than the hull of our vessel, and 
others apparently nearly as large as the one that we first saw ; 
though, as we went on, the islands became smaller and more 
numerous ; and, at sundown of this day, a man at the mast-head 
saw large tracts of floating ice, called "field-ice," at the south- 
east. This kind of ice is much more dangerous than the large 
islands, for those can be seen at a distance, and kept away 
from ; but the field-ice, floating in great quantities, and cover- 
ing the ocean for miles and miles, in pieces of every size, — 
large, flat, and broken cakes, with here and there an island 
rising twenty and thirty feet, and as large as the ship's hull, 
— this is very difificult to sheer clear of. A constant lookout 
was necessary; for many of these pieces, coming with the 
heave of the sea, were large enough to have knocked a hole 
in the ship, and that would have been the end of us ; for no 
boat (even if we could have got one out) could have lived in 
such a sea ; and no man could have lived in a boat in such 
weather. To make our condition still worse, the wind came 
out due east, just after sundown, and it blew a gale dead ahead, 
with hail and sleet and a thick fog, so that we could not see 
half the length of the ship. Our chief reliance, the prevailing 
westerly gales, was thus cut off ; and here we were, nearly 



TEMPERANCE SHIPS 331 

seven hundred miles to the westward of the Cape, with a gale 
dead from the eastward, and the weather so thick that we 
could not see the ice, with which we were surrounded, until 
it was directly under our bows. At four P. M. (it was then 
quite dark) all hands were called, and sent aloft, in a violent 
squall of hail and rain, to take in sail. We had now all got on 
our "Cape Horn rig," — thick boots, southwesters coming 
down over our neck and ears, thick trousers and jackets, and 
some with oil-cloth suits over all. Mittens, too, we wore on 
deck, but it would not do to go aloft with them, as, being wet 
and stiff, they might let a man slip overboard, for all the hold 
he could get upon a rope : so we were obliged to work with 
bare hands, which, as well as our faces, were often cut with the 
hail-stones, which fell thick and large. Our ship was now all 
cased with ice, — hull, spars, standing rigging, and the running 
rigging so stiff that we could hardly bend it so as to belay it, 
or, still less, take a knot with it ; and the sails frozen. One 
at a time (for it was a long piece of work and required many 
hands) we furled the courses, mizzen topsail, and fore-topmast 
staysail, and close-reefed the fore and main topsails, and hove 
the ship to under the fore, with the main hauled up by the clew- 
lines and buntlines, and ready to be sheeted home, if we found 
it necessary to make sail to get to windward of an ice island. 
A regular lookout was then set, and kept by each watch in turn, 
until the morning. It was a tedious and anxious night. It 
blew hard the whole time, and there was an almost constant 
driving of either rain, hail, or snow. In addition to this, it was 
"as thick as muck," and the ice was all about us. 

The captain was on deck nearly the whole night, and kept 
the cook in the galley, with a roaring fire, to make coffee for 
him, which he took every few hours, and once or twice gave a 
little to his officers ; but not a drop of anything was there for 
the crew. The captain, who sleeps all the daytime, and comes 
and goes at night as he chooses, can have his brandy-and-water 
in the cabin, and his hot coffee at the galley ; while Jack, who 
has to stand through everything, and work in wet and cold, 



332 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

can have nothing to wet his Hps or warm his stomach. This 
was a " temperance ship " by her articles, and, like too many 
such ships, the temperance was all in the forecastle. The 
sailor, who only takes his one glass as it is dealt out to him, 
is in danger of being drunk ; while the captain, upon whose 
self-possession and cool judgment the lives of all depend, may 
be trusted with any amount, to drink at his will. Sailors will 
never be convinced that rum is a dangerous thing by taking it 
away from them and giving it to the officers ; nor can they 
see a friend in that temperance which takes from them what 
they have always had, and gives them nothing in the place of 
it. By seeing it allowed to their officers, they will not be con- 
vinced that it is taken from them for their good ; and by re- 
ceiving nothing in its place they will not believe that it is done 
in kindness. On the contrary, many of them look upon the 
change as a new instrument of tyranny. Not that they prefer 
rum. I never knew a sailor, who had been a month away from 
the grog shops, who would not prefer a pot of hot coffee or 
chocolate, in a cold night, to all the rum afloat. They all say 
that rum only warms them for a time ; yet, if they can get 
nothing better, they will miss what they have lost. The 
momentary warmth and glow from drinking it ; the break and 
change which it makes in a long, dreary watch by the mere 
calling all hands aft and serving of it out; and the simply 
having some event to look forward to and to talk about, — all 
give it an importance and a use which no one can appreciate 
who has not stood his watch before the mast. On my passage 
out, the Pilgrim was not under temperance articles, and grog 
was served out every middle and morning watch, and after 
every reefing of topsails ; and, though I had never drunk rum 
before, nor desire to again, I took my allowance then at the 
capstan, as the rest did, merely for the momentary warmth it 
gave the system, and the change in our feelings and aspect of 
our duties on the watch. At the same time, as I have said, 
there was not a man on board who would not have pitched the 
rum to the dogs (I have heard them say so a dozen times) for 



TEMPERANCE SHIPS 333 

a pot of coffee or chocolate ; or even for our common beverage, 
— "water bewitched and tea begrudged," as it was.' The 
temperance reform is the best thing that was ever undertaken 
for the sailor ; but when the grog is taken from him, he ought 
to have something in its place. As it is now, in most vessels, 
it is a mere saving to the owners ; and this accounts for the 
sudden increase of temperance ships, which surprised even 
the best friends of the cause. If every merchant, when he 
struck grog from the list of the expenses of his ship, had been 
obliged to substitute as much coffee, or chocolate, as would 
give each man a pot-full when he came off the topsail yard, 
on a stormy night, — I fear Jack might have gone to ruin on 
the old road.^ 

But this is not doubling Cape Horn. Eight hours of the 
night our watch was on deck, and during the whole of that 
time we kept a bright lookout : one man on each bow, another 
in the bunt of the fore yard, the third mate on the scuttle, 
one man on each quarter, and another always standing by the 
wheel. The chief mate was everywhere, and commanded 
the ship when the captain was below. When a large piece qf 
ice was seen in our way, or drifting near us, the word was 

1 The proportions of the ingredients of the tea that was made for us (and ours, 
as I have before stated, was a favourable specimen of American merchantmen) were 
a pint of tea and a pint and a half of molasses to about three gallons of water. 
These are all boiled down together in the " coppers," and, before serving it out, 
the mess is stirred up with a stick, so as to give each man his fair share of sweeten- 
ing and tea-leaves. The tea for the cabin is, of course, made in the usual way, in 
a teapot, and drunk with sugar. 

2 I do not wish these remarks, so far as they relate to the saving of expense 
in the outfit, to be applied to the owners of our ship, for she was supplied with an 
abundance of stores of the best kind that are given to seaman; though the dispens- 
ing of them is necessarily left to the captain. And I learned, on our return, that 
the captain withheld many of the stores from us, from mere ugliness. He brought 
several barrels of flour home, but would not give us the usual twice-a-week duff, 
and so as to other stores. Indeed, so high was the reputation of " the employ " 
among men and officers for the character and outfit of their vessels, and for their 
liberality in conducting their voyages, that when it was known that they had the 
Alert fitting out for a long voyage, and that hands were to be shipped at a certain 
time, — a half hour before the time, as one of the crew told me, sailors were steer- 
ing down the wharf, hopping over the barrels, like a drove of sheep. 



334 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

passed along, and the ship's head turned one way and another ; 
and sometimes the yards squared or braced up. There was 
little else to do than to look out ; and we had the sharpest 
eyes in the ship on the forecastle. The only variety was 
the monotonous voice of the lookout forward, — " Another 
island ! " — " Ice ahead ! " — " Ice on the lee bow ! " — *' Hard 
up the helm ! " — " Keep her off a little ! " — " Stead-y ! " 

In the mean time the wet and cold had brought my face 
into such a state that I could neither eat nor sleep ; and 
though I stood it out all night, yet, when it became light, I 
was in such a state that all hands told me I must go below, 
and lie-by for a day or two, or I should be laid up for a long 
time. When the watch was changed I went into the steer- 
age, and took off my hat and comforter, and showed my face 
to the mate, who told me to go below at once, and stay in 
my berth until the swelling went down, and gave the cook 
orders to make a poultice for me, and said he would speak to 
the captain. 

I went below and turned in, covering myself over with 
blankets and jackets, and lay in my berth nearly twenty-four 
hours, half asleep and half awake, stupid from the dull pain, 
I heard the watch called, and the men going up and down, and 
sometimes a noise on deck, and a cry of "ice," but I gave 
little attention to anything. At the end of twenty-four hours 
the pain went down, and I had a long sleep, which brought 
me back to my proper state ; yet my face was so swollen and 
tender that I was obliged to keep my berth for two or three 
days longer. During the two days I had been below, the 
weather was much the same that it had been, — head winds, 
and snow and rain ; or, if the wind came fair, too foggy, and 
the ice too thick, to run. At the end of the third day the ice 
was very thick ; a complete fog-bank covered the ship. It 
blew a tremendous gale from the eastward, with sleet and 
snow, and there was every promise of a dangerous and fatiguing 
night. At dark, the captain called all hands aft, and told them 
that not a man was to leave the deck that night ; that the ship 



LYING-UP 335 

was in the greatest danger, any cake of ice might knock a hole 
in her, or she might run on an island and go to pieces. No 
one could tell whether she would be a ship the next morning. 
The lookouts were then set, and every man was put in his 
station. When I heard what was the state of things, I began 
to put on my clothes to stand it out with the rest of them, when 
the mate came below, and, looking at my face, ordered me back 
to my berth, saying that if we went down, we should all go 
down together, but if I went on deck I might lay myself up 
for life. This was the first word I had heard from aft ; for the 
captain had done nothing, nor inquired how I was, since I 
went below. 

In obedience to the mate's orders, I went back to my 
berth ; but a more miserable night I never wish to spend. 
I never felt the curse of sickness so keenly in my life. If I 
could only have been on deck with the rest where something 
was to be done and seen and heard, where there were fellow- 
beings for companions in duty and danger ; but to be cooped 
up alone in a black hole, in equal danger, but without the 
power to do, was the hardest trial. Several times, in the 
course of the night, I got up, determined to go on deck ; but 
the silence which showed that there was nothing doing, and 
the knowledge that I might make myself seriously ill, for no 
purpose, kept me back. It was not easy to sleep, lying, as 
I did, with my head directly against the bows, which might 
be dashed in by an island of ice, brought down by the very 
next sea that struck her. This was the only time I had been 
ill since I left Boston, and it was the worst time it could have 
happened. I felt almost willing to bear the plagues of Egypt 
for the rest of the voyage, if I could but be well and strong 
for that one night. Yet it was a dreadful night for those on 
deck. A watch of eighteen hours, with wet and cold and 
constant anxiety, nearly wore them out ; and when they came 
below at nine o'clock for breakfast, they almost dropped asleep 
on their chests, and some of them were so stiff that they could 
with difficulty sit down. Not a drop of anything had been 



336 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

given them during the whole time (though the captain, as on 
the night that I was on deck, had his coffee every four hours), 
except that the mate stole a pot-full of coffee for two men to 
drink behind the galley, while he kept a lookout for the cap- 
tain. Every man had his station, and was not allowed to 
leave it ; and nothing happened to break the monotony of the 
night, except once setting the main topsail, to run clear of a 
large island to leeward, which they were drifting fast upon. 
Some of the boys got so sleepy and stupefied that they actu- 
ally fell asleep at their posts ; and the young third mate, Mr. 
Hatch, whose post was the exposed one of standing on the 
fore scuttle, was so stiff, when he was relieved, that he could 
not bend his knees to get down. By a constant lookout, and 
a quick shifting of the helm, as the islands and pieces came in 
sight, the ship went clear of everything but a few small pieces, 
though daylight showed the ocean covered for miles. At 
daybreak it fell a dead calm, and with the sun the fog cleared 
a little, and a breeze sprung up from the westward, which soon 
grew into a gale. We had now a fair wind, daylight, and 
comparatively clear weather ; yet, to the surprise of every one, 
the ship continued hove-to. '' Why does not he run ?" '' What 
is the captain about } " was asked by every one ; and from 
questions it soon grew into complaints and murmurings. 
When the daylight was so short, it was too bad to lose it, and 
a fair wind, too, which every one had been praying for. As 
hour followed hour, and the captain showed no sign of making 
sail, the crew became impatient, and there was a good deal of 
talking and consultation together on the forecastle. They 
had been beaten out with the exposure and hardship, and im- 
patient to get out of it, and this unaccountable delay was more 
than they could bear in quietness, in their excited and restless 
state. Some said the captain was frightened, — completely 
cowed by the dangers and difficulties that surrounded us, and 
was afraid to make sail ; while others said that in his anxiety 
and suspense he had made a free use of brandy and opium, 
and was unfit for his duty. The carpenter, who was an intel- 



DIFFICULTY ON BOARD 337 

ligent man, and a thorough seaman, and had great influence 
with the crew, came down into the forecastle, and tried to in- 
duce them to go aft and ask the captain why he did not run, 
or request him, in the name of all hands, to make sail. This 
appeared to be a very reasonable request, and the crew agreed 
that if he did not make sail before noon they would go aft. 
Noon came, and no sail was made. A consultation was held 
again, and it was proposed to take the ship from the captain 
and give the command of her to the mate, who had been heard 
to say that if he could have his way the ship would have been 
half the distance to the Cape before night, — ice or no ice. 
And so irritated and impatient had the crew become, that even 
this proposition, which was open mutiny, was entertained, and 
the carpenter went to his berth, leaving it tacitly understood 
that something serious would be done if things remained as 
they were many hours longer. When the carpenter left, we 
talked it all over, and I gave my advice strongly against it. 
Another of the men, too, who had known something of the 
kind attempted in another ship by a crew who were dissatisfied 
with their captain, and which was followed with serious conse- 
quences, was opposed to it. Stimson, who soon came down, 
joined us, and we determined to have nothing to do with it. 
By these means the crew were soon induced to give it up for 
the present, though they said they would not lie where they 
were much longer without knowing the reason. 

The affair remained in this state until four o'clock, when 
an order came forward for all hands to come aft upon the 
quarter-deck. In about ten minutes they came forward again, 
and the whole affair had been blown. The carpenter, prema- 
turely, and without any authority from the crew, had sounded 
the mate as to whether he would take command of the ship, 
and intimated an intention to displace the captain ; and the 
mate, as in duty bound, had told the whole to the captain, who 
immediately sent for all hands aft. Instead of violent meas- 
ures, or, at least, an outbreak of quarter-deck bravado, threats, 
and abuse, which they had every reason to expect, a sense of 



338 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

common danger and common suffering seemed to have tamed 
his spirit, and begotten in him something hke a humane fellow- 
feeling ; for he received the crew in a manner quiet, and even 
almost kind. He told them what he had heard, and said that 
he did not believe that they would try to do any such thing 
as was intimated ; that they had always been good men, — 
obedient, and knew their duty, and he had no fault to find with 
them, and asked them what they had to complain of ; said that 
no one could say that he was slow to carry sail (which was 
true enough), and that, as soon as he thought it was safe and 
proper, he should make sail. He added a few words about 
their duty in their present situation, and sent them forward, 
saying that he should take no further notice of the matter ; 
but, at the same time, told the carpenter to recollect whose 
power he was in, and that if he heard another word from 
him he would have cause to remember him to the day of 
his death. 

This language of the captain had a very good effect upon 
the crew, and they returned quietly to their duty. 

For two days more the wind blew from the southward and 
eastward, and in' the short intervals, when it was fair, the ice 
was too thick to run ; yet the weather was not so dreadfully 
bad, and the crew had watch and watch. I still remained in 
my berth, fast recovering, yet not well enough to go safely on 
deck. And I should have been perfectly useless ; for, from 
having eaten nothing for nearly a week, except a little rice 
which I forced into my mouth the last day or two, I was as 
weak as an infant. To be sick in a forecastle is miserable 
indeed. It is the worst part of a dog's life, especially in bad 
weather. The forecastle, shut up tight to keep out the water 
and cold air ; the watch either on deck or asleep in their berths ; 
no one to speak to ; the pale light of the single lamp, swinging 
to and fro from the beam, so dim that one can scarcely see, 
much less read, by it ; the water dropping from the beams 
and carlines and running down the sides, and the forecastle 
so wet and dark and cheerless, and so lumbered up with chests 



CHANGE OF COURSE 339 

and wet clothes, that sitting up is worse than lying in the berth. 
These are some of the evils. Fortunately, I needed no help 
from any one, and no medicine ; and if I had needed help I 
don't know where I should have found it. Sailors are willing 
enough, but it is true, as is often said, — no one ships for nurse 
on board a vessel. Our merchant ships are always under- 
manned, and if one man is lost by sickness, they cannot spare 
another to take care of him. A sailor is always presumed to 
be well, and if he's sick he's a poor dog. One has to stand 
his wheel, and another his lookout, and the sooner he gets on 
deck again the better. 

Accordingly, as soon as I could possibly go back to my 
duty, I put on my thick clothes and boots and southwester, 
and made my appearance on deck. I had been but a few days 
below, yet everything looked strangely enough. The ship was 
cased in ice, — decks, sides, masts, yards, and rigging. Two 
close-reefed topsails were all the sail she had on, and every 
sail and rope was frozen so stiff in its place that it seemed as 
though it would be impossible to start anything. Reduced, 
too, to her topmasts, she had altogether a most forlorn and 
crippled appearance. The sun had come up brightly ; the 
snow was swept off the decks and ashes thrown upon them 
so that we could walk, for they had been as slippery as glass. 
It was, of course, too cold to carry on any ship's work, and we 
had only to walk the deck and keep ourselves warm. The 
wind was still ahead, and the whole ocean, to the eastward, 
covered with islands and field-ice. At four bells the order 
was given to square away the yards, and the man who came 
from the helm said that the captain had kept her off to N. N. E, 
What could this mean ? The wildest rumours got adrift. Some 
said that he was going to put into Valparaiso and winter, and 
others that he was going to run out of the ice and cross the 
Pacific, and go home round the Cape of Good Hope. Soon, 
however, it leaked out, and we found that we were running for 
the Straits of Magellan. The news soon spread through the 
ship, and all tongues were at work talking about it. No one 



340 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

on board had been through the straits ; but I had in my chest 
an account of the passage of the ship A. J. Donelson, of New 
York, through those straits a few years before. The account 
was given by the captain, and the representation was as favour- 
able as possible. It was soon read by every one on board, and 
various opinions pronounced. The determination of our cap- 
tain had at least this good effect ; it gave us something to 
think and talk about, made a break in our life, and diverted 
our minds from the monotonous dreariness of the prospect 
before us. Having made a fair wind of it, we were going off 
at a good rate, and leaving the thickest of the ice behind us. 
This, at least, was something. 

Having been long enough below to get my hands well 
warmed and softened, the first handling of the ropes was 
rather tough ; but a few days hardened them, and as soon as 
I got my mouth open wide enough to take in a piece of salt 
beef and hard bread, I was all right again. 

Sunday y July loth. Lat. 54° 10', Ion. 79° 07'. This 
was our position at noon. The sun was out bright ; the ice 
was all left behind, and things had quite a cheerful appear- 
ance. We brought our wet pea-jackets and trousers on deck, 
and hung them up in the rigging, that the breeze and the few 
hours of sun might dry them a little ; and, by leave of the 
cook, the galley was nearly filled with stockings and mittens, 
hung round to be dried. Boots, too, were brought up ; and, 
having got a little tar and slush from below, we gave them 
thick coats. After dinner all hands were turned-to, to get 
the anchors over the bows, bend on the chains, etc. The 
fish-tackle was got up, fish-davit rigged out, and, after two or 
three hours of hard and cold work, both the anchors were 
ready for instant use, a couple of kedges got up, a hawser 
coiled away upon the fore-hatch, and the deep-sea-lead-line 
overhauled and made ready. Our spirits returned with having 
something to do ; and when the tackle was manned to bowse 
the anchor home, notwithstanding the desolation of the scene, 
we struck up " Cheerly, men ! " in full chorus. This pleased 



THE STRAITS OF MAGELLAN 34 1 

the mate, who rubbed his hands and cried out, " That 's right, 
my boys; never say die ! That sounds like the old crew ! " 
and the captain came up, on hearing the song, and said to the 
passenger, within hearing of the man at the wheel, *'That 
sounds like a lively crew. They '11 have their song so long as 
there 're enough left for a chorus ! " 

This preparation of the cable and anchors was for the pas- 
sage of the straits ; for as they are very crooked, and with a 
variety of currents, it is necessary to come frequently to anchor. 
This was not, by any means, a pleasant prospect ; for, of all 
the work that a sailor is called upon to do in cold weather, 
there is none so bad as working the ground-tackle. The 
heavy chain cables to be hauled and pulled about decks with 
bare hands ; wet hawsers, slip-ropes, and buoy-ropes to be 
hauled aboard, dripping in water, which is running up your 
sleeves, and freezing ; clearing hawse under the bows ; getting 
under way and coming-to at all hours of the night and day, 
and a constant lookout for rocks and sands and turns of tides, 
— these are some of the disagreeables of such a navigation to 
a common sailor. Fair or foul, he wants to have nothing to 
do with the ground-tackle between port and port. One of our 
hands, too, had unluckily fallen upon a half of an old newspaper 
which contained an account of the passage, through the straits, 
of a Boston brig, called, I think, the Peruvian, in which she 
lost every cable and anchor she had, got aground twice, and 
arrived at Valparaiso in distress. This was set off against 
the account of the A. J. Donelson, and led us to look forward 
with less confidence to the passage, especially as no one on 
board had ever been through, and we heard that the captain 
had no very satisfactory charts. However, we were spared 
any further experience on the point ; for the next day, when 
we must have been near the Cape of Pillars, which is the 
southwest point of the mouth of the straits, a gale set in from 
the eastward with a heavy fog, so that we could not see half 
the ship's length ahead. This, of course, put an end to the 
project for the present ; for a thick fog and a gale blowing 



342 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

dead ahead are not the most favourable circumstances for the 
passage of difficult and dangerous straits. This weather, too, 
seemed likely to last for some time, and we could not think of 
beating about the mouth of the straits for a week or two, wait- 
ing for a favourable opportunity ; so we braced up on the lar- 
board tack, put the ship's head due south, and stuck her off 
for Cape Horn again. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

IN our first attempt to double the Cape, when we came up 
to the latitude of it, we were nearly seventeen hundred 
miles to the westward, but, in running for the Straits of 
Magellan, we stood so far to the eastward that we made our 
second attempt at a distance of not more than four or five 
hundred miles ; and we had great hopes, by this means, to 
run clear of the ice ; thinking that the easterly gales, which 
had prevailed for a long time, would have driven it to the 
westward. With the wind about two points free, the yards 
braced in a little, and two close-reefed topsails and a reefed 
foresail on the ship, we made great way toward the south- 
ward ; and almost every watch, when we came on deck, the air, 
seemed to grow colder, and the sea to run higher. Still we 
saw no ice, and had great hopes of going clear of it altogether, 
when, one afternoon, about three o'clock, while we were taking 
a siesta during our watch below, "All hands ! " was called in 
a loud and fearful voice. "Tumble up here, men ! — tumble 
up ! — don't stop for your clothes — before we 're upon it ! " 
We sprang out of our berths and hurried upon deck. The loud, 
sharp voice of the captain was heard giving orders, as though 
for life or death, and we ran aft to the braces, not waiting to 
look ahead, for not a moment was to be lost. The helm was 
hard up, the after yards shaking, and the ship in the act of 
wearing. Slowly, with the stiff ropes and iced rigging, we 
swung the yards round, everything coming hard, and with a 
creaking and rending sound, like pulling up a plank which 
has been frozen into the ice. The ship wore round fairly, 
the yards were steadied, and we stood off on the other tack, 
leaving behind us, directly under our larboard quarter, a large 
ice island, peering out of the mist, and reaching high above 

343 



344 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

our tops ; while astern, and on either side of the island, large 
tracts of field-ice were dimly seen, heaving and rolling in the 
sea. We were now safe, and standing to the northward ; but, 
in a few minutes more, had it not been for the sharp lookout 
of the watch, we should have been fairly upon the ice, and left 
our ship's old bones adrift in the Southern Ocean. After 
standing to the northward a few hours, we wore ship, and, the 
wind having hauled, we stood to the southward and eastward. 
All night long a bright lookout was kept from every part of 
the deck ; and whenever ice was seen on the one bow or the 
other the helm was shifted and the yards braced, and, by quick 
working of the ship, she was kept clear. The accustomed 
cry of " Ice ahead ! " — '' Ice on the lee bow ! " — '' Another 
island ! " in the same tones, and with the same orders follow- 
ing them, seemed to bring us directly back to our old position 
of the week before. During our watch on deck, which was 
from twelve to four, the wind came out ahead, with a pelting 
storm of hail and sleet, and we lay hove-to, under a close-reefed 
fore topsail, the whole watch. During the next watch it fell 
calm with a drenching rain until daybreak, when the wind 
came out to the westward, and the weather cleared up, and 
showed us the whole ocean, in the course which we should 
have steered, had it not been for the head wind and calm, com- 
pletely blocked up with ice. Here, then, our progress was 
stopped, and we wore ship, and once more stood to the north- 
ward and eastward ; not for the Straits of Magellan, but to 
make another attempt to double the Cape, still farther to the 
eastward ; for the captain was determined to get round if 
perseverance could do it, and the third time, he said, never 
failed. 

With a fair wind we soon ran clear of the field-ice, and by 
noon had only the stray islands floating far and near upon the 
ocean. The sun was out bright, the sea of a deep blue, fringed 
with the white foam of the waves, which ran high before a 
strong southwester ; our solitary ship tore on through the open 
water as though glad to be out of her confinement ; and the 



DISAPPOINTMENT 345 

ice islands lay scattered here and there, of various sizes and 
shapes, reflecting the bright rays of the sun, and drifting 
slowly northward before the gale. It was a contrast to much 
that we had lately seen, and a spectacle not only of beauty, 
but of life ; for it required but little fancy to imagine these 
islands to be animate masses which had broken loose from the 
" thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice," and were working their 
way, by wind and current, some alone, and some in fleets, to 
milder climes. No pencil has ever yet given anything like 
the true effect of an iceberg. In a picture, they are huge, un- 
couth masses, stuck in the sea, while their chief beauty and 
grandeur — their slow, stately motion, the whirling of the snow 
about their summits, and the fearful groaning and cracking of 
their parts — the picture cannot give. This is the large ice- 
berg, — while the small and distant island, floating on the 
smooth sea, in the light of a clear day, look like little floating 
fairy isles of sapphire. 

From a northeast course we gradually hauled to the east- 
ward, and after sailing about two hundred miles, which brought 
us as near to the western coast of Terra del Fuego as was safe, 
and having lost sight of the ice altogether, — for the third time 
we put the ship's head to the southward, to try the passage of 
the Cape. The weather continued clear and cold, with a 
strong gale from the westward, and we were fast getting up 
with the latitude of the Cape, with a prospect of soon being 
round. One fine afternoon, a man who had gone into the fore- 
top to shift the rolling tackles sung out at the top of his voice, 
and with evident glee, " Sail ho ! " Neither land nor sail had 
we seen since leaving San Diego ; and only those who have 
traversed the length of a whole ocean alone can imagine what an 
excitement such an announcement produced on board. " Sail 
ho ! " shouted the cook, jumping out of his galley ; " Sail ho ! " 
shouted a man, throwing back the slide of the scuttle, to the 
watch below, who were soon out of their berths and on deck ; 
and " Sail ho ! " shouted the captain down the companion-way 
to the passenger in the cabin. Beside the pleasure of seeing 



34^ TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

a ship and human beings in so desolate a place, it was impor- 
tant for us to speak a vessel, to learn whether there was ice 
to the eastward, and to ascertain the longitude ; for we had no 
chronometer, and had been drifting about so long that we had 
nearly lost our reckoning ; and opportunities for lunar obser- 
vations are not frequent or sure in such a place as Cape Horn. 
For these various reasons the excitement in our little com- 
munity was running high, and conjectures were made, and 
everything thought of for which the captain would hail, when 
the man aloft sung out — " Another sail, large on the weather 
bow ! " This was a little odd, but so much the better, and did 
not shake our faith in their being sails. At length the man 
in the top hailed, and said he believed it was land, after all. 
" Land in your eye ! " said the mate, who was looking through 
the telescope ; " they are ice islands, if I can see a hole 
through a ladder " ; and a few moments showed the mate to be 
right ; and all our expectations fled ; and instead of what we 
most wished to see we had what we most dreaded, and what 
we hoped we had seen the last of. We soon, however, left 
these astern, having passed within about two miles of them, 
and at sundown the horizon was clear in all directions. 

Having a fine wind, we were soon up with and passed the 
latitude of the Cape, and, having stood far enough to the south- 
ward to give it a wide berth, we began to stand to the east- 
ward, with a good prospect of being round and steering to the 
northward, on the other side, in a very few days. But ill luck 
seemed to have lighted upon us. Not four hours had we 
been standing on in this course before it fell dead calm, and 
in half an hour it clouded up, a few straggling blasts, with 
spits of snow and sleet, came from the eastward, and in an 
hour more we lay hove-to under a close-reefed main topsail, 
drifting bodily off to leeward before the fiercest storm that 
we had yet felt, blowing dead ahead, from the eastward. It 
seemed as though the genius of the place had been roused at 
finding that we had nearly slipped through his fingers, and 
had come down upon us with tenfold fury. The sailors said 



CAPE HORN 347 

that every blast, as it shook the shrouds, and whistled through 
the rigging, said to the old ship, " No, you don't ! " — " No, 
you don't ! " 

For eight days we lay drifting about in this manner. 
Sometimes — generally towards noon — it fell calm ; once or 
twice a round copper ball showed itself for a few moments 
in the place where the sun ought to have been, and a puff or 
two came from the westward, giving some hope that a fair 
wind had come at last. During the first two days we made 
sail for these puffs, shaking the reefs out of the topsails and 
boarding the tacks of the courses ; but finding that it only 
made work for us when the gale set in again, it was soon 
given up, and we lay-to under our close-reefs. We had less 
snow and hail than when we were farther to the westward, 
but we had an abundance of what is worse to a sailor in cold 
weather, — drenching rain. Snow is blinding, and very bad 
when coming upon a coast, but, for genuine discomfort, give 
me rain with freezing weather. A snowstorm is exciting, 
and it does not wet through the clothes (a fact important to 
a sailor) ; but a constant rain there is no escaping from. 
It wets to the skin, and makes all protection vain. We had 
long ago run through all our dry clothes, and as sailors have 
no other way of drying them than by the sun, we had nothing 
to do but to put on those which were the least wet. At the 
end of each watch, when we came below, we took off our 
clothes and wrung them out ; two taking hold of a pair of 
trousers, one at each end, — and jackets in the same way. 
Stockings, mittens, and all, were wrung out also, and then 
hung up to drain and chafe dry against the bulk-heads. 
Then, feeling of all our clothes, we picked out those which 
were the least wet, and put them on, so as to be ready for a 
call, and turned-in, covered ourselves up with blankets, and 
slept until three knocks on the scuttle and the dismal sound 
of "All starbowlines, ahoy! Eight bells, there below! Do 
you hear the news ^ " drawled out from on deck, and the sulky 
answer of "Aye, aye ! " from below, sent us up again. 



348 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

On deck all was dark, and either a dead calm, with the rain 
pouring steadily down, or, more generally, a violent gale dead 
ahead, with rain pelting horizontally, and occasional variations 
of hail and sleet ; decks afloat with water swashing from side 
to side, and constantly wet feet, for boots could not be wrung 
out like drawers, and no composition could stand the constant 
soaking. In fact, wet and cold feet are inevitable in such 
weather, and are not the least of those items which go to make 
up the grand total of the discomforts of a winter passage round 
Cape Horn. Few words were spoken between the watches as 
they shifted ; the wheel was relieved, the mate took his place 
on the quarter-deck, the lookouts in the bows ; and each man 
had his narrow space to walk fore and aft in, or rather to swing 
himself forward and back in, from one belaying-pin to another, 
for the decks were too slippery with ice and water to allow of 
much walking. To make a walk, which is absolutely neces- 
sary to pass away the time, one of us hit upon the expedient 
of sanding the decks ; and afterwards, whenever the rain was 
not so violent as to wash it off, the weather-side of the quarter- 
deck, and a part of the waist and forecastle were sprinkled with 
the sand which we had on board for holystoning, and thus we 
made a good promenade, where we walked fore and aft, two 
and two, hour after hour, in our long, dull, and comfortless 
watches. The bells seemed to be an hour or two apart, in- 
stead of half an hour, and an age to elapse before the welcome 
sound of eight bells. The sole object was to make the time 
pass on. 

Any change was sought for which would break the 
monotony of the time ; and even the two hours' trick at the 
wheel, which came round to us in turn, once in every other 
watch, was looked upon as a relief. The never-failing resource 
of long yarns, which eke out many a watch, seemed to have 
failed us now ; for we had been so long together that we had 
heard each other's stories told over and over again till we had 
them by heart ; each one knew the whole history of each of 
the others, and we were fairly and literally talked out. Sing- 



CAPE HORN 349 

ing and joking we were in no humour for ; and, in fact, any 
sound of mirth or laughter would have struck strangely upon 
our ears, and would not have been tolerated any more than 
whistling or a wind instrument. The last resort, that of specu- 
lating upon the future, seemed now to fail us ; for our dis- 
couraging situation, and the danger we were really in (as we 
expected every day to find ourselves drifted back among 
the ice), "clapped a stopper" upon all that. From saying 
"when we get home," we began insensibly to alter it to "if 
we get home," and at last the subject was dropped by a 
tacit consent. 

In this state of things, a new light was struck out, and a 
new field opened, by a change in the watch. One of our watch 
was laid up for two or three days by a bad hand (for in cold 
weather the least cut or bruise ripens into a sore), and his 
place was supplied by the carpenter. This was a windfall, 
and there was a contest who should have the carpenter to 
walk with him. As " Chips " was a man of some little educa- 
tion, and he and I had had a good deal of intercourse with each 
other, he fell in with me in my walk. He was a Fin, but 
spoke English well, and gave me long accounts of his country, 
— the customs, the trade, the towns, what little he knew of 
the government (I found he was no friend of Russia), his voy- 
ages, his first arrival in America, his marriage and courtship ; 
he had married a countrywoman of his, a dressmaker, whom 
he met with in Boston. I had very little to tell him of my 
quiet, sedentary life at home ; and in spite of our best efforts, 
which had protracted these yarns through five or six watches, 
we fairly talked each other out, and I turned him over to 
another man in the watch, and put myself upon my own 
resources. 

I commenced a deliberate system of time-killing, which 
united some profit with a cheering up of the heavy hours. 
As soon as I came on deck, and took my place and regular 
walk, I began with repeating over to myself in regular order 
a string of matters which I had in my memory, — the multi- 



350 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

plication table and the tables of weights and measures ; the 
Kanaka numerals ; then the States of the Union, with their 
capitals ; the counties of England, with their shire towns, and 
the kings of England in their order, and other things. This 
carried me through my facts, and, being repeated deliberately, 
with long intervals, often eked out the first two bells. Then 
came the Ten Commandments, the thirty-ninth chapter of 
Job, and a few other passages from Scripture. The next in the 
order, which I seldom varied from, came Cowper's " Castaway," 
which was a great favourite with me ; its solemn measure 
and gloomy character, as well as the incident it was founded 
upon, making it well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then 
his lines to Mary, his address to the Jackdaw, and a short 
extract from " Table Talk " (I abounded in Cowper, for I hap- 
pened to have a volume of his poems in my chest) ; " Ille et 
nefasto " from Horace, and Goethe's " Erl Konig." After I 
had got through these, I allowed myself a more general range 
among everything that I could remember, both in prose and 
verse. In this way, with an occasional break by relieving the 
wheel, heaving the log, and going to the scuttle-butt for a 
drink of water, the longest watch was passed away ; and I was 
so regular in my silent recitations that, if there was no inter- 
ruption by ship's duty, I could tell very nearly the number of 
bells by my progress. 

Our watches below were no more varied than the watch on 
deck. All washing, sewing, and reading was given up, and we 
did nothing but eat, sleep, and stand our watch, leading what 
might be called a Cape Horn life. The forecastle was too 
uncomfortable to sit up in ; and whenever we were below, we 
were in our berths. To prevent the rain and the sea-water 
which broke over the bows from washing down, we were 
obliged to keep the scuttle closed, so that the forecastle was 
nearly air-tight. In this little, wet, leaky hole, we were all 
quartered, in an atmosphere so bad that our lamp, which 
swung in the middle from the beams, sometimes actually 
burned blue, with a large circle of foul air about it. Still, I 



CAPE HORN 351 

was never in better health than after three weeks of this Hfe. 
I gained a great deal of flesh, and we all ate like horses. At 
every watch when we came below, before turning in, the 
bread barge and beef kid were overhauled. Each man drank 
his quart of hot tea night and morning, and glad enough we 
were to get it ; for no nectar and ambrosia were sweeter to the 
lazy immortals than was a pot of hot tea, a hard biscuit, and 
a slice of cold salt beef to us after a watch on deck. To be 
sure, we were mere animals, and, had this life lasted a year 
instead of a month, we should have been little better than the 
ropes in the ship. Not a razor, nor a brush, nor a drop of 
water, except the rain and the spray, had come near us all the 
time ; for we were on an allowance of fresh water ; and who 
would strip and wash himself in salt water on deck, in the 
snow and ice, with the thermometer at zero .'* 

After about eight days of constant easterly gales, the wind 
hauled occasionally a little to the southward, and blew hard, 
which, as we were well to the southward, allowed us to brace 
in a little, and stand on under all the sail we could carry. 
These turns lasted but a short while, and sooner or later it 
set in again from the old quarter ; yet at each time we made 
something, and were gradually edging along to the eastward. 
One night, after one of these shifts of the wind, and when all 
hands had been up a great part of the time, our watch was left 
on deck, with the mainsail hanging in the buntlines, ready to be 
set if necessary. It came on to blow worse and worse, with 
hail and snow beating like so many furies upon the ship, it 
being as dark and thick as night could make it. The mainsail 
was blowing and slatting with a noise like thunder, when the 
captain came on deck and ordered it to be furled. The mate 
was about to call all hands, when the captain stopped him, and 
said that the men would be beaten out if they were called 
up so often ; that, as our watch must stay on deck, it might 
as well be doing that as anything else. Accordingly, we 
went upon the yard ; and never shall I forgot that piece 
of work. 



352 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Our watch had been so reduced by sickness, and by some 
having been left in California, that, with one man at the 
wheel, we had only the third mate and three beside myself to 
go aloft ; so that at most we could only attempt to furl one 
yard-arm at a time. We manned the weather yard-arm, and 
set to work to make a furl of it. Our lower masts being 
short, and our yards very square, the sail had a head of nearly 
fifty feet, and a short leech, made still shorter by the deep 
reef which was in it, which brought the clew away out on the 
quarters of the yard, and made a bunt nearly as square as the 
mizzen royal yard. Beside this difficulty, the yard over which 
we lay was cased with ice, the gaskets and rope of the foot and 
leech of the sail as stiff and hard as a piece of leather hose, 
and the sail itself about as pliable as though it had been made 
of sheets of sheathing copper. It blew a perfect hurricane, 
with alternate blasts of snow, hail, and rain. We had to fist 
the sail with bare hands. No one could trust himself to mit- 
tens, for if he slipped he was a gone man. All the boats were 
hoisted in on deck, and there was nothing to be lowered for 
him. We had need of every finger God had given us. Several 
times we got the sail upon the yard, but it blew away again 
before we could secure it. It required men to lie over the 
yard to pass each turn of the gaskets, and when they were 
passed it was almost impossible to knot them so that they 
would hold. Frequently we were obliged to leave off alto- 
gether and take to beating our hands upon the sail to keep 
them from freezing. After some time — which seemed forever 
— we got the weather side stowed after a fashion, and went 
over to leeward for another trial. This was still worse, for 
the body of the sail had been blown over to leeward, and, as 
the yard was a-cock-bill by the lying over of the vessel, we 
had to light it all up to windward. When the yard-arms were 
furled, the bunt was all adrift again, which made more work 
for us. We got all secure at last, but we had been nearly an 
hour and a half upon the yard, and it seemed an age. It had 
just struck five bells when we went up, and eight were struck 



LAND HO! 353 

soon after we came down. This may seem slow work ; but 
considering the state of everything, and that we had only five 
men to a sail with just half as many square yards of canvas in 
it as the mainsail of the Independence, sixty-gun ship, which 
musters seven hundred men at her quarters, it is not wonder- 
ful that we were no quicker about it. We were glad enough 
to get on deck, and still more to go below. The oldest sailor 
in the watch said, as he went down, " I shall never forget that 
main yard ; it beats all my going a-fishing. Fun is fun, but 
furling one yard-arm of a course at a time, off Cape Horn, is 
no better than man-killing." 

During the greater part of the next two days, the wind was 
pretty steady from the southward. We had evidently made 
great progress, and had good hope of being soon up with the 
Cape, if we were not there already. We could put but little 
confidence in our reckoning, as there had been no opportunities 
for an observation, and we had drifted too much to allow of 
our dead reckoning being anywhere near the mark. If it 
would clear off enough to give chance for an observation, or 
if we could make land, we should know where we were ; and 
upon these, and the chances of falling in with a sail from the 
eastward, we depended almost entirely. 

Friday, Jidy 22d. This day we had a steady gale from 
the southward, and stood on under close sail, with the yards 
eased a little by the weather braces, the clouds lifting a little, 
and showing signs of breaking away. In the afternoon, I was 
below with Mr. Hatch, the third mate, and two others, filling 
the bread locker in the steerage from the casks, when a bright 
gleam of sunshine broke out and shone down the companion- 
way, and through the skylight, lighting up everything below, 
and sending a warm glow through the hearts of all. It was a 
sight we had not seen for weeks, — an omen, a godsend. 
Even the roughest and hardest face acknowledged its in- 
fluence. Just at that moment we heard a loud shout from all 
parts of the deck, and the mate called out down the com- 
panion-way to the captain, who was sitting in the cabin. 



354 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

What he said we could not distinguish, but the captain kicked 
over his chair, and was on deck at one jump. We could not 
tell what it was ; and, anxious as we were to know, the discipline 
of the ship would not allow of our leaving our places. Yet, as 
we were not called, we knew there was no danger. We hur- 
ried to get through with our job, when, seeing the steward's 
black face peering out of the pantry, Mr. Hatch hailed him to 
know what was the matter. " Lan' o, to be sure, sir ! No 
you hear 'em sing out, ' Lan' o ' ? De cap'em say 'im Cape 
Horn ! " 

This gave us a new start, and we were soon through our 
work and on deck ; and there lay the land, fair upon the lar- 
board beam, and slowly edging away upon the quarter. All 
hands were busy looking at it, — the captain and mates from 
the quarter-deck, the cook from his galley, and the sailors 
from the forecastle ; and even Mr. Nuttall, the passenger, 
who had kept in his shell for nearly a month, and hardly been 
seen by anybody, and whom we had almost forgotten was on 
board, came out like a butterfly, and was hopping round as 
bright as a bird. 

The land was the island of Staten Land, just to the eastward 
of Cape Horn ; and a more desolate-looking spot I never wish 
to set eyes upon, — bare, broken, and girt with rocks and ice, 
with here and there, between the rocks and broken hillocks, a 
little stunted vegetation of shrubs. It was a place well suited 
to stand at the junction of the two oceans, beyond the reach 
of human cultivation, and encounter the blasts and snows of a 
perpetual winter. Yet, dismal as it was, it was a pleasant sight 
to us ; not only as being the first land we had seen, but because 
it told us that we had passed the Cape, — were in the Atlantic, 
— and that, with twenty-four hours of this breeze, we might bid 
defiance to the Southern Ocean. It told us, too, our latitude 
and longitude better than any observation ; and the captain now 
knew where we were, as well as if we were off the end of Long 
Wharf. 

In the general joy, Mr. Nuttall said he should like to go 



LAND HO! 355 

ashore upon the island and examine a spot which probably no 
human being had ever set foot upon ; but the captain intimated 
that he would see the island, specimens and all, in — another 
place, before he would get out a boat or delay the ship one 
moment for him. 

We left the land gradually astern ; and at sundown had the 
Atlantic Ocean clear before us. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

IT is usual, in voyages round the Cape from the Pacific, to 
keep to the eastward of the Falkland Islands ; but as there 
had now set in a strong, steady, and clear southwester, 
with every prospect of its lasting, and we had had enough of 
high latitudes, the captain determined to stand immediately to 
the northward, running inside the Falkland Islands. Accord- 
ingly, when the wheel was relieved at eight o'clock, the order 
was given to keep her due north, and all hands were turned 
up to square away the yards and make sail. In a moment the 
news ran through the ship that the captain was keeping her 
off, with her nose straight for Boston, and Cape Horn over 
her taffrail. It was a moment of enthusiasm. Every one was 
on the alert, and even the two sick men turned out to lend a 
hand at the halyards. The wind was now due southwest, and 
blowing a gale to which a vessel close hauled could have shown 
no more than a single close-reefed sail ; but as we were going 
before it, we could carry on. Accordingly, hands were sent 
aloft, and a reef shaken out of the topsails, and the reefed 
foresail set. When we came to mast-head the topsail yards, 
with all hands at the halyards, we struck up " Cheerly, 
men," with a chorus which might have been heard half-way 
to Staten Land. Under her increased sail, the ship drove on 
through the water. Yet she could bear it well ; and the cap- 
tain sang out from the quarter-deck, '' Another reef out of 
that fore topsail, and give it to her ! " Two hands sprang aloft ; 
the frozen reef-points and earings were cast adrift, the hal- 
yards manned, and the sail gave out her increased canvas to 
the gale. All hands were kept on deck to watch the effect 
of the change. It was as much as she could well carry, and 
with a heavy sea astern it took two men at the wheel to steer 

356 



J 



CRACKING ON 357 

her. She flung the foam from her bows, the spray breaking 
aft as far as the gangway. She was going at a prodigious 
rate. Still everything held. Preventer braces were reeved 
and hauled taut, tackles got upon the backstays, and every- 
thing done to keep all snug and strong. The captain walked 
the deck at a rapid stride, looked aloft at the sails, and then 
to windward ; the mate stood in the gangway, rubbing his 
hands, and talking aloud to the ship, " Hurrah, old bucket ! 
the Boston girls have got hold of the tow-rope ! " and the 
like ; and we were on the forecastle, looking to see how 
the spars stood it, and guessing the rate at which she was 
going, when the captain called out " Mr. Brown, get up the 
topmast studding-sail ! What she can't carry she may drag ! " 
The mate looked a moment ; but he would let no one be before 
him in daring. He sprang forward. *' Hurrah, men ! rig out 
the topmast studding-sail boom ! Lay aloft, and I '11 send the 
rigging up to you!" We sprang aloft into the top ; lowered 
a girt-line down, by which we hauled up the rigging; rove 
the tacks and halyards ; ran out the boom and lashed it fast, 
and sent down the lower halyards as a preventer. It was a 
clear starlight night, cold and blowing ; but everybody worked 
with a will. Some, indeed, looked as though they thought the 
"old man " was mad, but no one said a word. We had had a 
new topmast studding-sail made with a reef in it, — a thing 
hardly ever heard of, and which the sailors had ridiculed a 
good deal, saying that when it was time to reef a studding-sail 
it was time to take it in. But we found a use for it now ; for, 
there being a reef in the topsail, the studding-sail could not 
be set without one in it also. To be sure, a studding-sail with 
reefed topsails was rather a novelty ; yet there was some reason 
in it, for if we carried that away we should lose only a sail and 
a boom ; but a whole topsail might have carried away the 
mast and all. 

While we were aloft the sail had been got out, bent to the 
yard, reefed, and ready for hoisting. Waiting for a good 
opportunity, the halyards were manned and the yard hoisted 



358 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

fairly up to the block ; but when the mate came to shake the 
catspaw out of the downhaul, and we began to boom-end 
the sail, it shook the ship to her centre. The boom buckled 
up and bent like a whip-stick, and we looked every moment to 
see something go ; but, being of the short, tough upland 
spruce, it bent like whalebone, and nothing could break it. 
The carpenter said it was the best stick he had even seen. The 
strength of all hands soon brought the tack to the boom-end, 
and the sheet was trimmed down, and the preventer and the 
weather brace hauled taut to take off the strain. Every rope- 
yarn seemed stretched to the utmost, and every thread of 
canvas ; and with this sail added to her, the ship sprang 
through the water, like a thing possessed. The sail being 
nearly all forward, it lifted her out of the water, and she 
seemed actually to jump from sea to sea. From the time her 
keel was laid, she had never been so driven ; and had it been 
life or death with every one of us, she could not have borne 
another stitch of canvas. 

Finding that she would bear the sail, the hands were sent 
below, and our watch remained on deck. Two men at the 
wheel had as much as they could do to keep her within three 
points of her course, for she steered as wild as a young colt. 
The mate walked the deck, looking at the sails, and then over 
the side to see the foam fly by her, — slapping his hands upon 
his thighs and talking to the ship, — " Hurrah, you jade, you Ve 
got the scent ! — you know where you are going ! " And when 
she leaped over the seas, and almost out of the water, and 
trembled to her very keel, the spars and masts snapping 
and creaking, — " There she goes ! — There she goes, — hand- 
somely .!* — As long as she cracks she holds!" — while we 
stood with the rigging laid down fair for letting go, and ready 
to take in sail and clear away, if anything went. At four bells 
we hove the log, and she was going eleven knots fairly ; and 
had it not been for the sea from aft which sent the chip home, 
and threw her continually off her course, the log would have 
shown her to have been going somewhat faster. I went to 



CRACKING ON 359 

the wheel with a young fellow from the Kennebec, Jack 
Stewart, who was a good helmsman, and for two hours we 
had our hands full. A few minutes showed us that our 
monkey-jackets must come off ; and, cold as it was, we stood 
in our shirt-sleeves in a perspiration, and were glad enough to 
have it eight bells, and the wheel relieved. We turned-in and 
slept as well as we could, though the sea made a constant roar 
under her bows, and washed over the forecastle like a small 
cataract. 

At four o'clock we were called again. The same sail was 
still on the vessel, and the gale, if there was any change, had 
increased a little. No attempt was made to take the studding- 
sail in ; and, indeed, it was too late now. If we had started 
anything toward taking it in, either tack or halyards, it would 
have blown to pieces, and carried something away with it. 
The only way now was to let everything stand, and if the 
gale went down, well and good ; if not, something must go, — 
the weakest stick or rope first, — and then we could get it in. 
For more than an hour she was driven on at such a rate that 
she seemed to crowd the sea into a heap before her ; and the 
water poured over the spritsail yard as it would over a dam. 
Toward daybreak the gale abated a little, and she was just 
beginning to go more easily along, relieved of the pressure, 
when Mr. Brown, determined to give her no respite, and de- 
pending upon the wind's subsiding as the sun rose, told us to 
get along the lower studding-sail. This was an immense sail, 
and held wind enough to last a Dutchman a week, — hove-to. 
It was soon ready, the boom topped up, preventer guys rove, 
and the idlers called up to man the halyards ; yet such was 
still the force of the gale that we were nearly an hour setting 
the sail ; carried away the outhaul in doing it, and came very 
near snapping off the swinging boom. No sooner was it set 
than the ship tore on again like one mad, and began to steer 
wilder than ever. The men at the wheel were puffing and 
blowing at their work, and the helm was going hard up and 
hard down, constantly. Add to this, the gale did not lessen 



360 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

as the day came on, but the sun rose in clouds. A sudden 
lurch threw the man from the weather wheel across the deck 
and against the side. The mate sprang to the wheel, and the 
man, regaining his feet, seized the spokes, and they hove the 
wheel up just in time to save the ship from broaching to, 
though as she came up the studding-sail boom stood at an 
angle of forty-five degrees. She had evidently more on her 
than she could bear ; yet it was in vain to try to take it in, — 
the clew-line was not strong enough, and they were thinking 
of cutting away, when another wide yaw and a come-to snapped 
the guys, and the swinging boom came in with a crash against 
the lower rigging. The outhaul block gave way, and the top- 
mast studding-sail boom bent in a manner which I never before 
supposed a stick could bend. I had my eye on it when the 
guys parted, and it made one spring and buckled up so as to 
form nearly a half-circle, and sprang out again to its shape. 
The clew-line gave way at the first pull ; the cleat to which 
the halyards were belayed was wrenched off, and the sail blew 
round the spritsail yard and head guys, which gave us a bad 
job to get it in. A half-hour served to clear all away, and she 
was suffered to drive on with her topmast studding-sail set, it 
being as much as she could stagger under. 

During all this day and the next night we went on under 
the same sail, the gale blowing with undiminished violence ; 
two men at the wheel all the time ; watch and watch, and 
nothing to do but to steer and look out for the ship, and be 
blown along ; — until the noon of the next day, — 

Stmday, July 24.th, when we were in latitude 50° 27' S., 
longitude 62° 1 3' W., having made four degrees of latitude in 
the last twenty-four hours. Being now to the northward of 
the Falkland Islands, the ship was kept off, northeast, for the 
equator ; and with her head for the equator, and Cape Horn 
over her taffrail, she went gloriously on ; every heave of the 
sea leaving the Cape astern, and every hour bringing us 
nearer to home and to warm weather. Many a time, when 
blocked up in the ice, with everything dismal and discouraging 



PROGRESS HOMEWARD 36 1 

about us, had we said, if we were only fairly round, and stand- 
ing north on the other side, we should ask for no more ; and 
now we had it all, with a clear sea and as much wind as a 
sailor could pray for. If the best part of a voyage is the last 
part, surely we had all now that we could wish. Every one 
was in the highest spirits, and the ship seemed as glad as any 
of us at getting out of her confinement. At each change of 
the watch, those coming on deck asked those going below, 
" How does she go along .'' " and got, for answer, the rate, and 
the customary addition, "Aye ! and the Boston girls have had 
hold of the tow-rope all the watch." Every day the sun rose 
higher in the horizon, and the nights grew shorter ; and at 
coming on deck each morning there was a sensible change in 
the temperature. The ice, too, began to melt from off the 
rigging and spars, and, except a little which remained in the 
tops and round the hounds of the lower masts, was soon gone. 
As we left the gale behind us, the reefs were shaken out of 
the topsails, and sail made as fast as she could bear it ; and 
every time all hands were sent to the halyards a song was 
called for, and we hoisted away with a will. 

Sail after sail was added, as we drew into fine weather ; 
and in one week after leaving Cape Horn, the long top-gallant- 
masts were got up, top-gallant and royal yards crossed, and the 
ship restored to her fair proportions. 

The Southern Cross and the Magellan Clouds settled lower 
and lower in the horizon : and so great was our change of lati- 
tude that each succeeding night we sank some constellation in 
the south, and raised another in the northern horizon. 

Sunday, July 31st. At noon we were in lat. 36° 41' S., 
long. 38° 08' W. ; having traversed the distance of two thou- 
sand miles, allowing for changes of course in nine days. A 
thousand miles in four days and a half ! This is equal to 
steam. 

Soon after eight o'clock the appearance of the ship gave 
evidence that this was the first Sunday we had yet had in fine 
weather. As the sun came up clear, with the promise of a 



362 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

fair, warm day, and, as usual on Sunday, there was no work 
going on, all hands turned-to upon clearing out the forecastle. 
The wet and soiled clothes which had accumulated there dur- 
ing the past month were brought up on deck ; the chests 
moved ; brooms, buckets of water, swabs, scrubbing-brushes, 
and scrapers carried down and applied, until the forecastle 
floor was as white as chalk, and everything neat and in order. 
The bedding from the berths was then spread on deck, and 
dried and aired ; the deck-tub filled with water ; and a grand 
washing begun of all the clothes which were brought up. 
Shirts, frocks, drawers, trousers, jackets, stockings, of every 
shape and color, wet and dirty, — many of them mouldy from 
having been lying a long time wet in a foul corner, — these 
were all washed and scrubbed out, and finally towed overboard 
for half an hour ; and then made fast in the rigging to dry. 
Wet boots and shoes were spread out to dry in sunny places 
on deck ; and the whole ship looked like a back yard on a 
washing-day. After we had done with our clothes, we began 
upon our persons. A little fresh water, which we had saved 
from our allowance, was put in buckets, and, with soap and 
towels, we had what sailors call a fresh-water wash. The 
same bucket, to be sure, had to go through several hands, and 
was spoken for by one after another, but as we rinsed off in 
salt water, pure from the ocean, and the fresh was used only 
to start the accumulated grime and blackness of five weeks, it 
was held of little consequence. We soaped down and scrubbed 
one another with towels and pieces of canvas, stripping to it ; 
and then, getting into the head, threw buckets of water upon 
each other. After this came shaving, and combing, and brush- 
ing ; and when, having spent the first part of the day in this 
way, we sat down on the forecastle, in the afternoon, with 
clean duck trousers and shirts on, washed, shaved, and combed, 
and looking a dozen shades lighter for it, reading, sewing, and 
talking at our ease, with a clear sky and warm sun over our 
heads, a steady breeze over the larboard quarter, studding-sails 
out alow and aloft, and all the flying kites abroad, — we felt 



A FINE SIGHT 363 

that we had got back into the pleasantest part of a sailor's life. 
At sunset the clothes were all taken down from the rigging, — 
clean and dry, — and stowed neatly away in our chests ; and 
our southwesters, thick boots, Guernsey frocks, and other 
accompaniments of bad weather, put out of the way, we hoped, 
for the rest of the voyage, as we expected to come upon the 
coast early in the autumn. 

Notwithstanding all that has been said about the beauty of 
a ship under full sail, there are very few who have ever seen 
a ship, literally, under all her sail. A ship coming in or going 
out of port, with her ordinary sails, and perhaps two or three 
studding-sails, is commonly said to be under full sail ; but a ship 
never has all her sail upon her, except when she has a light, 
steady breeze, very nearly, but not quite, dead aft, and so 
regular that it can be trusted, and is likely to last for some 
time. Then, with all her sails, light and heavy, and studding- 
sails, on each side, alow and aloft, she is the most glorious 
moving object in the world. Such a sight very few, even some 
who have been at sea a good deal, have ever beheld ; for from 
the deck of your own vessel you can not see her, as you would 
a separate object. 

One night, while we were in these tropics, I went out to 
the end of the flying-jib-boom upon some duty, and, having 
finished it, turned round, and lay over the boom for a long 
time, admiring the beauty of the sight before me. Being so 
far out from the deck, I could look at the ship as at a separate 
vessel ; and there rose up from the water, supported only by 
the small black hull, a pyramid of canvas, spreading out far 
beyond the hull, and towering up almost, as it seemed in the 
indistinct night air, to the clouds. The sea was as still as an 
inland lake ; the light trade-wind was gently and steadily 
breathing from astern ; the dark blue sky was studded with 
the tropical stars ; there was no sound but the rippling of the 
water under the stem ; and the sails were spread out, wide 
and high, — the two lower studding-sails stretching on each 
side far beyond the deck ; the topmast studding-sails like wings 



364 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

to the topsails ; the top-gallant studding-sails spreading fear- 
lessly out above them ; still higher, the two royal studding- 
sails, looking like two kites flying from the same string ; and, 
highest of all, the little skysail, the apex of the pyramid, seem- 
ing actually to touch the stars, and to be out of reach of 
human hand. So quiet, too, was the sea, and so steady the 
breeze, that if these sails had been sculptured marble they 
could not have been more motionless. Not a ripple upon the 
surface of the canvas ; not even a quivering of the extreme 
edges of the sail, so perfectly were they distended by the 
breeze. I was so lost in the sight that I forgot the presence 
of the man who came out with me, until he said (for he, too, 
rough old man-of-war 's-man as he was, had been gazing at the 
show), half to himself, still looking at the marble sails, — " How 
quietly they do their work ! " 

The fine weather brought work with it, as the ship was to 
be put in order for coming into port. To give a landsman 
some notion of what is done on board ship, it may be truly 
said that all the first part of a passage is spent in getting a 
ship ready for sea, and the last part in getting her ready for 
port. She is, as sailors say, like a lady's watch, always out of 
repair. The new, strong sails, which we had up off Cape 
Horn, were to be sent down, and the old set, which were still 
serviceable in fine weather, to be bent in their place ; all the 
rigging to be set up, fore and aft ; the masts stayed ; the 
standing rigging to be tarred down ; lower and topmast rigging 
to be rattled down, fore and aft ; the ship scraped inside and 
out, and painted ; decks varnished ; new and neat knots, seiz- 
ings and coverings, to be fitted ; and every part put in order, 
to look well to the owner's eye, and to all critics, on coming 
into Boston. This, of course, was a long matter ; and all 
hands were kept on deck at work for the whole of each day, 
during the rest of the voyage. Sailors call this hard usage ; 
but the ship must be in crack order ; and " We 're homeward 
bound " was the answer to everything. 

We went on for several days, employed in this way, noth- 



BY-PLAY 365 

ing remarkable occurring ; and, at the latter part of the week, 
fell in with the southeast trades, blowing about east-south- 
east, which brought them nearly two points abaft our beam. 
They blew strong and steady, so that we hardly started a 
rope, until we were beyond their latitude. The first day of 
"all hands " one of those little incidents occurred, which are 
nothing in themselves, but are great matters in the eyes of a 
ship's company, as they serve to break the monotony of a 
voyage, and afford conversation to the crew for days after- 
wards. These things, too, are often interesting, as they show 
the customs and states of feeling on shipboard. 

In merchant vessels, the captain gives his orders, as to 
the ship's work, to the mate, in a general way, and leaves the 
execution of them, with the particular ordering, to him. This 
has become so fixed a custom that it is like a law, and is never 
infringed upon by a wise master, unless his mate is no sea- 
man ; in which case the captain must often oversee things for 
himself. This, however, could not be said of our chief mate, 
and he was very jealous of any encroachment upon the borders 
of his authority. 

On Monday morning the captain told him to stay the fore 
topmast plumb. He accordingly came forward, turned all 
hands to, with tackles on the stays and backstays, coming up 
with the seizings, hauling here, belaying there, and full of 
business, standing between the knight-heads to sight the mast, 
— when the captain came forward, and also began to give 
orders. This made confusion, and the mate left his place and 
went aft, saying to the captain : — 

" If you come forward, sir, I '11 go aft. One is enough on 
the forecastle." 

This produced a reply, and another fierce answer ; and the 
words flew, fists were doubled up, and things looked threaten- 
ingly. 

" I 'm master of this ship." 

" Yes, sir, and I 'm mate of her, and know my place ! My 
place is forward, and yours is aft." 



366 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

" My place is where I choose ! I command the whole 
ship, and you are mate only so long as I choose ! " 

" Say the word, Captain Thompson, and I'm done ! I can 
do a man's work aboard ! I didn 't come through the cabin 
windows ! If I 'm not mate, I can be man," etc. 

This was all fun for us, who stood by, winking at each 
other, and enjoying the contest between the higher powers. 
The captain took the mate aft ; and they had a long talk, 
which ended in the mate's returning to his duty. The cap- 
tain had broken through a custom, which is a part of the 
common law of a ship, and without reason, for he knew that 
his mate was a sailor, and needed no help from him ; and the 
mate was excusable for being angry. Yet, in strict law, he 
was wrong, and the captain right. Whatever the captain does 
is right, ipso facto, and any opposition to it is wrong on board 
ship ; and every officer and man knows this when he signs 
the ship's articles. It is a part of the contract. Yet there 
has grown up in merchant vessels a series of customs, which 
have become a well-understood system, and have somewhat 
the force of prescriptive law. To be sure, all power is in the 
captain, and the officers hold their authority only during his 
will, and the men are liable to be called upon for any service ; 
yet, by breaking in upon these usages, many difficulties have 
occurred on board ship, and even come into courts of justice, 
which are perfectly unintelligible to any one not acquainted 
with the universal nature and force of these customs. Many 
a provocation has been offered, and a system of petty oppres- 
sion pursued towards men, the force and meaning of which 
would appear as nothing to strangers, and doubtless do appear 
so to many "'longshore" juries and judges. 

The next little diversion was a battle on the forecastle, 
one afternoon, between the mate and the steward. They had 
been on bad terms the whole voyage, and had threatened a 
rupture several times. Once, on the coast, the mate had 
seized the steward, when the steward suddenly lowered his 
head, and pitched it straight into Mr. Brown's stomach, but- 



BY-PLAY 3^7 

ting him against the galley, grunting at every shove, and call- 
ing out " You Brown ! " Mr. Brown looked white in the face, 
and the heaviest blows he could give seemed to have no effect 
on the negro's head. He was pulled off by the second mate, 
and Mr. Brown was going at him again, when the captain 
separated them ; and Mr. Brown told his tale to the captain, 
adding "and, moreover, he called me Brown!" From this 
time "moreover, he called me Brown," became a by-word on 
board. Mr. Brown went aft, saying, " I 've promised it to 
you, and now you 've got it." But he did not seem to be sure 
which had "got it"; nor did we. We knew Mr. Brown 
would not leave the thing in that equivocal position all the 
voyage if he could help it. This afternoon the mate asked 
the steward for a tumbler of water, and he refused to get it 
for him, saying that he waited upon nobody but the captain ; 
and here he had the custom on his side. But, in answering, 
he committed the unpardonable offence of leaving off the 
handle to the mate's name. This enraged the mate, who 
called him a "black soger," and at it they went, clenching, 
striking, and rolling over and over ; while we stood by, looking 
on and enjoying the fun. The darkey tried to butt him, as 
before, but the mate got him down, and held him, the steward 
singing out, " Let me go, Mr. Brown, or there '11 be blood 
spilt ! " In the midst of this, the captain came on deck, sepa- 
rated them, took the steward aft, and gave him half a dozen 
with a rope's end. The steward tried to justify himself, but 
he had been heard to talk of spilling blood, and that was 
enough to earn him his flogging ; and the captain did not 
choose to inquire any further. Mr. Brown was satisfied to 
let him alone after that, as he had, on the whole, vindicated 
his superiority in the eyes of the crew. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

THE same day, I met with one of those narrow escapes 
which are so often happening in a sailor's Hfe. I had 
been aloft nearly all the afternoon, at work, standing 
for as much as an hour on the fore top-gallant yard, which 
was hoisted up, and hung only by the tie ; when, having got 
through my work, I balled up my yarns, took my serving-board 
in my hand, laid hold deliberately of the top-gallant rigging, 
took one foot from the yard, and was just lifting the other, 
when the tie parted, and down the yard fell. I was safe, 
by my hold upon the rigging, but it made my heart beat quick. 
Had the tie parted one instant sooner, or had I stood an in- 
stant longer on the yard, I should inevitably have been thrown 
violently from the height of ninety or a hundred feet, over- 
board ; or, what is worse, upon the deck. However, " a miss 
is as good as a mile " ; a saying which sailors very often have 
occasion to use. An escape is always a joke on board ship. 
A man would be ridiculed who should make a serious matter 
of it. A sailor knows too well that his life hangs upon a 
thread, to wish to be often reminded of it ; so, if a man has 
an escape, he keeps it to himself, or makes a joke of it. I have 
often known a man's life to be saved by an instant of time, or 
by the merest chance, — the swinging of a rope, — and no 
notice taken of it. One of our boys, off Cape Horn, reefing 
topsails of a dark night when there were no boats to be lowered 
away, and where, if a man fell overboard, he must be left be- 
hind, lost his hold of the reef-point, slipped from the foot-rope, 
and would have been in the water in a moment, when the 
man who was next to him on the yard, French John, caught 
him by the collar of his jacket, and hauled him up upon the 
yard, with, " Hold on, another time, you young monkey, 

368 



TRINIDAD 369 

and be d d to you ! " — and that was all that was heard 

about it. 

Sunday, August yth. Lat. 25° 59' S., Ion. 27° o' W. 
Spoke the English bark Mary Catherine, from Bahia, bound 
to Calcutta. This was the first sail we had fallen in with, and 
the first time we had seen a human form or heard the human 
voice, except of our own number, for nearly a hundred days. 
The very yo-ho-ing of the sailors at the ropes sounded sociably 
upon the ear. She was an old, damaged-looking craft, with a 
high poop and top-gallant forecastle, and sawed off square, 
stem and stern, like a true English " tea-wagon," and with a 
run like a sugar-box. She had studding-sails out alow and 
aloft, with a light but steady breeze, and her captain said he 
could not get more than four knots out of her, and thought 
he should have a long passage. We were going six on an 
easy bowline. 

The next day, about three P. M., passed a large corvette- 
built ship, close upon the wind, with royals and skysails set 
fore and aft, under English colours. She was standing south- 
by-east, probably bound round Cape Horn. She had men in 
her tops, and black mast-heads ; heavily-sparred, with sails cut 
to a T, and other marks of a man-of-war. She sailed well, and 
presented a fine appearance ; the proud, feudal-looking banner 
of St. George — the cross in a blood-red field — waving from 
the mizzen. We, probably, were nearly as fine a sight, with 
our studding-sails spread far out beyond the ship on either 
side, and rising in a pyramid to royal studding-sails and sky- 
sails, burying the hull in canvas and looking like what the 
whalemen on the Banks, under their stump top-gallant-masts, 
call "a Cape Horner under a cloud of sail." 

Friday, August 12th. At daylight made the island of 
Trinidad, situated in lat. 20° 28' S., Ion. 29° 08' W. At 
twelve M., it bore N. W. J N., distant twenty-seven miles. 
It was a beautiful day, the sea hardly ruffled by the light 
trades, and the island looking like a small blue mound rising 
from a field of glass. Such a fair and peaceful-looking spot is 



370 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

said to have been, for a long time, the resort of a band of 
pirates, who ravaged the tropical seas. 

Thursday y August i8th. At three P. M., made the island 
of Fernando Naronha, lying in lat. 3° 55' S., Ion. 32° 35' W. ; 
and between twelve o'clock Friday night and one o'clock Satur- 
day morning crossed the equator, for the fourth time since 
leaving Boston, in Ion. 35° W. ; having been twenty-seven 
days from Staten Land, — a distance, by the courses we had 
made, of more than four thousand miles. 

We were now to the northward of the line, and every day 
added to our latitude. The Magellan Clouds, the last sign of 
south latitude, had long been sunk, and the North Star, the 
Great Bear, and the familiar signs of northern latitudes, were 
rising in the heavens. Next to seeing land, there is no sight 
which makes one realize more that he is drawing near home, 
than to see the same heavens, under which he was born, shin- 
ing at night over his head. The weather was extremely hot, 
with the usual tropical alternations of a scorching sun and 
squalls of rain ; yet not a word was said in complaint of the 
heat, for we all remembered that only three or four weeks be- 
fore we would have given our all to be where we now were. 
We had a plenty of water, too, which we caught by spreading 
an awning, with shot thrown in to make hollows. These rain 
squalls came up in the manner usual between the tropics. A 
clear sky ; burning, vertical sun ; work going lazily on, and 
men about decks with nothing but duck trousers, checked 
shirts, and straw hats : the ship moving as lazily through the 
water ; the man at the helm resting against the wheel, with 
his hat drawn over his eyes ; the captain below, taking an 
afternoon nap ; the passenger leaning over the taffrail, watch- 
ing a dolphin following slowly in our wake ; the sailmaker 
mending an old topsail on the lee side of the quarter-deck ; 
the carpenter working at his bench, in the waist ; the boys 
making sinnet ; the spun-yarn winch whizzing round and 
round, and the men walking slowly fore and aft with the 
yarns. A cloud rises to windward, looking a little black ; 



TROPICAL SQUALLS 3/1 

the skysails are brailed down ; the captain puts his head out 
of the companion-way, looks at the cloud, comes up, and 
begins to walk the deck. The cloud spreads and comes on ; 
the tub of yarns, the sail, and other matters, are thrown below, 
and the sky-light and booby-hatch put on, and the slide drawn 
over the forecastle. " Stand by the royal halyards " ; and the 
man at the wheel keeps a good weather helm, so as not to be 
taken aback. The squall strikes her. If it is light, the royal 
yards are clewed down, and the ship keeps on her way ; but 
if the squall takes strong hold, the royals are clewed up, fore 
and aft ; light hands lay aloft and furl them ; top-gallant yards 
are clewed down, flying-jib hauled down, and the ship kept off 
before it, — the man at the helm laying out his strength to 
heave the wheel up to windward. At the same time a drench- 
ing rain, which soaks one through in an instant. Yet no one 
puts on a jacket or cap ; for if it is only warm, a sailor does not 
mind a ducking ; and the sun will soon be out again. As soon 
as the force of the squall has passed, though to a common eye 
the ship would seem to be in the midst of it — " Keep her up 
to her course again!" — "Keep her up, sir," (answer).' — 
" Hoist away the top-gallant yards ! " — " Run up the flying- 
jib ! " — " Lay aloft, you boys, and loose the royals ! " and all 
sail is on her again before she is fairly out of the squall ; and 
she is going on in her course. The sun comes out once more, 
hotter than ever, dries up the decks and the sailors' clothes ; 
the hatches are taken off ; the sail got up and spread on the 
quarter-deck ; spun-yarn winch set a whirling again ; rigging 
coiled up ; captain goes below ; and every sign of an interrup- 
tion disappears. 

These scenes, with occasional dead calms, lasting for hours, 
and sometimes for days, are fair specimens of the Atlantic 
tropics. The nights were fine ; and as we had all hands all 
day, the watch were allowed to sleep on deck at night, except 
the man at the wheel, and one lookout on the forecastle. 

I A man at the wheel is required to repeat every order given him. A simple 
" Aye, aye, sir," is not enough there. 



372 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

This was not so much expressly allowed as winked at. We 
could do it if we did not ask leave. If the lookout was caught 
napping, the whole watch was kept awake. We made the most 
of this permission, and stowed ourselves away upon the rigging, 
under the weather rail, on the spars, under the windlass, and in 
all the snug corners ; and frequently slept out the watch, unless 
we had a wheel or a lookout. And we were glad enough to 
get this rest ; for under the *' all-hands " system, out of every 
other thirty-six hours we had only four below ; and even an 
hour's sleep was a gain not to be neglected. One would have 
thought so to have seen our watch some nights, sleeping through 
a heavy rain. And often have we come on deck, and, finding 
a dead calm and a light, steady rain, and determined not to 
lose our sleep, have laid a coil of rigging down so as to keep 
us out of the water which was washing about decks, and 
stowed ourselves away upon it, covering a jacket over us, and 
slept as soundly as a Dutchman between two feather-beds. 

For a week or ten days after crossing the line, we had the 
usual variety of calms, squalls, head winds, and fair winds, — 
at one time braced sharp upon the wind, with a taut bowline, 
and in an hour after slipping quietly along, with a light breeze 
over the taffrail, and studding-sails set out on both sides, — 
until we fell in with the northeast trade-winds ; which we did 
on the afternoon of — 

Sunday ^ August 28th, in lat. 12° N. The trade-wind clouds 
had been in sight for a day or two previously, and we expected 
to take the trades every hour. The light southerly breeze, 
which had been breathing languidly during the first part of 
the day, died away toward noon, and in its place came puffs 
from the northeast, which caused us to take in our studding- 
sails and brace up ; and, in a couple of hours more, we were 
bowling gloriously along, dashing the spray far ahead and to 
leeward, with the cool, steady northeast trades freshening up 
the sea, and giving us as much as we could carry our royals 
to. These winds blew strong and steady, keeping us generally 
upon a bowline, as our course was about north-northwest ; and. 



A TROPICAL THUNDERSTORM 373 

sometimes, as they veered a little to the eastward, giving us a 
chance at a main top-gallant studding-sail, and sending us well 
to the northward, until — 

Sunday, September 4th, when they left us in lat. 22° N., 
Ion. 51° W., directly under the tropic of Cancer. 

For several days we lay "humbugging about" in the 
Horse latitudes, with all sorts of winds and weather, and occa- 
sionally, as we were in the latitude of the West Indies, — a 
thunderstorm. It was hurricane month, too, and we were 
just in the track of the tremendous hurricane of 1830, which 
swept the North Atlantic, destroying almost everything 
before it. 

The first night after the trade-winds left us, while we were 
in the latitude of the island of Cuba, we had a specimen of 
a true tropical thunderstorm. A light breeze had been blow- 
ing from aft during the first part of the night, which gradually 
died away, and before midnight it was dead calm, and a heavy 
black cloud had shrouded the whole sky. When our watch 
came on deck at twelve o'clock, it was as black as Erebus ; 
the studding-sails were all taken in, and the royals furled ; 
not a breath was stirring ; the sails hung heavy and motion- 
less from the yards ; and the stillness and the darkness, which 
was almost palpable, were truly appalling. Not a word was 
spoken, but every one stood as though waiting for something 
to happen. In a few minutes the mate came forward, and in 
a low tone, which was almost a whisper, told us to haul down 
the jib. The fore and mizzen top-gallant sails were taken in 
in the same silent manner : and we lay motionless upon the 
water, with an uneasy expectation, which, from the long sus- 
pense, became actually painful. We could hear the captain 
walking the deck, but it was too dark to see anything more 
than one's hand before the face. Soon the mate came for- 
ward again, and gave an order, in a low tone, to clew up the 
main top-gallant-sail ; and so infectious was the awe and 
silence that the clew-lines and buntlines were hauled up with- 
out any singing out at the ropes. An English lad and myself 



374 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

went up to furl it ; and we had just got the bunt up, when 
the mate called out to us something, we did not hear what, — 
but, supposing it to be an order to bear-a-hand, we hurried 
and made all fast, and came down, feeling our way among the 
rigging. When we got down we found all hands looking 
aloft, and there, directly over where we had been standing, 
upon the main top-gallant mast-head, was a ball of light, which 
the sailors call a corposant (corpus sancti), and which the 
mate had called out to us to look at. They were all watching 
it carefully, for sailors have a notion that if the corposant 
rises in the rigging it is a sign of fair weather, but if it comes 
lower down there will be a storm. Unfortunately, as an 
omen, it came down, and showed itself on the top-gallant 
yard-arm. We were off the yard in good season, for it is 
held a fatal sign to have the pale light of the corposant thrown 
upon one's face. As it was, the English lad did not feel 
comfortably at having had it so near him, and directly over 
his head. In a few minutes it disappeared, and showed itself 
again on the fore top-gallant yard ; and, after playing about 
for some time, disappeared once more, when the man on the 
forecastle pointed to it upon the flying-jib-boom-end. But 
our attention was drawn from watching this, by the falling of 
some drops of rain, and by a perceptible increase of the dark- 
ness, which seemed suddenly to add a new shade of blackness 
to the night. In a few minutes, low, grumbling thunder was 
heard, and some random flashes of lightning came from the 
southwest. Every sail was taken in but the topsails ; still, 
no squall appeared to be coming. A few puffs lifted the top- 
sails, but they fell again to the mast, and all was as still as 
ever. A moment more, and a terrific flash and peal broke 
simultaneously upon us, and a cloud appeared to open directly 
over our heads, and let down the water in one body, like a 
falling ocean. We stood motionless, and almost stupefied; 
yet nothing had been struck. Peal after peal rattled over our 
heads, with a sound which seemed actually to stop the breath 
in the body, and the '' speedy gleams " kept the whole ocean 



A TROPICAL THUNDERSTORM 375 

in a glare of light. The violent fall of rain lasted but a few 
minutes, and was followed by occasional drops and showers ; 
but the lightning continued incessant for several hours, break- 
ing the midnight darkness with irregular and blinding flashes. 
During all this time there was not a breath stirring, and we 
lay motionless, like a mark to be shot at, probably the only 
object on the surface of the ocean for miles and miles. We 
stood hour after hour, until our watch was out, and we were 
relieved, at four o'clock. During all this time hardly a word 
was spoken ; no bells were struck, and the wheel was silently 
relieved. The rain fell at intervals in heavy showers, and 
we stood drenched through and blinded by the flashes, which 
broke the Egyptian darkness with a brightness that seemed 
almost malignant ; while the thunder rolled in peals, the con- 
cussion of which appeared to shake the very ocean. A ship 
is not often injured by lightning, for the electricity is sepa- 
rated by the great number of points she presents, and the 
quantity of iron which she has scattered in various parts. 
The electric fluid ran over our anchors, topsail sheets and 
ties ; yet no harm was done to us. We went below at four 
o'clock, leaving things in the same state. It is not easy to 
sleep when the very next flash may tear the ship in two, or 
set her on fire ; or where the deathlike calm may be broken 
by the blast of a hurricane, taking the masts out of the ship. 
But a man is no sailor if he cannot sleep when he turns in, 
and turn out when he 's called. And when, at seven bells, 
the customary " All the larboard watch, ahoy ! " brought us 
on deck, it was a fine, clear, sunny morning, the ship going 
leisurely along, with a soft breeze and all sail set. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

FROM the latitude of the West Indies, until we got inside 
the Bermudas, where we took the westerly and south- 
westerly winds, which blow steadily off the coast of the 
United States early in the autumn, we had every variety of 
weather, and two or three moderate gales, or, as sailors call 
them, double-reef-topsail breezes, which came on in the usual 
manner, and of which one is a specimen of all. A fine after- 
noon ; all hands at work, some in the rigging, and others on 
deck ; a stiff breeze, and ship close upon the wind, and sky- 
sails brailed down. Latter part of the afternoon, breeze in- 
creases, ship lies over to it, and clouds look windy. Spray 
begins to fly over the forecastle, and wets the yarns the boys 
are knotting ; — ball them up and put them below. Mate 
knocks off work and clears up decks earlier than usual, and 
orders a man who has been employed aloft to send the royal 
halyards over to windward, as he comes down. Breast back- 
stays hauled taut, and a tackle got upon the martingale 
back-rope. One of the boys furls the mizzen royal. Cook 
thinks there is going to be " nasty work," and has supper 
ready early. Mate gives orders to get supper by the watch, 
instead of all hands, as usual. While eating supper, hear the 
watch on deck taking in the royals. Coming on deck, find it 
is blowing harder, and an ugly head sea running. Instead of 
having all hands on the forecastle in the dog watch, smoking, 
singing, and telling yarns, one watch goes below and turns-in, 
saying that it 's going to be an ugly night, and two hours' 
sleep is not to be lost. Clouds look black and wild ; wind 
rising, and ship working hard against a heavy head sea, which 
breaks over the forecastle, and washes aft through the scup- 
pers. Still, no more sail is taken in, for the captain is a 

376 



A REEF-TOPSAIL BREEZE 377 

driver, and, like all drivers, very partial to his top-gallant-sails. 
A top-gallant-sail, too, makes the difference between a breeze 
and a gale. When a top-gallant-sail is on a ship, it is only a 
breeze, though I have seen ours set over a reefed topsail, 
when half the bowsprit was under water, and it was up to a 
man's knees in the lee scuppers. At eight bells, nothing is 
said about reefing the topsails, and the watch go below, with 
orders to "stand by for a call." We turn-in, growling at the 
"old man" for not reefing the topsails when the watch was 
changed, but putting it off so as to call all hands, and break 
up a whole watch below. Turn-in " all standing," and keep 
ourselves awake, saying there is no use in going to sleep to 
be waked up again. Wind whistles on deck, and ship works 
hard, groaning and creaking, and pitching into a heavy head 
sea, which strikes against the bows, with a noise like knocking 
upon a rock. The dim lamp in the forecastle swings to 
and fro, and things "fetch away" and go over to leeward. 
" Does n't that booby of a second mate ever mean to take in 
his top-gallant-sails ? He '11 have the sticks out of her soon," 
says Old Bill, who was always growling, and, like most old 
sailors, did not like to see a ship abused. By and by, an order 
is given; "Aye, aye, sir!" from the forecastle; rigging is 
thrown down on deck ; the noise of a sail is heard fluttering 
aloft, and the short, quick cry which sailors make when haul- 
ing upon clew-lines. " Here comes his fore top-gallant-sail 
in ! " We are wide awake, and know all that's going on as 
well as if we were on deck. A well-known voice is heard 
from the mast-head singing out to the officer of the watch to 
haul taut the weather brace. " Hallo ! There 's Ben Stim- 
son aloft to furl the sail ! " Next thing, rigging is thrown 
down directly over our heads, and a long-drawn cry and a rat- 
tling of hanks announce that the flying-jib has come in. The 
second mate holds on to the main top-gallant-sail until a heavy 
sea is shipped, and washes over the forecastle as though the 
whole ocean had come aboard ; when a noise further aft shows 
that that sail, too, is taking in. After this the ship is more 



378 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

easy for a time ; two bells are struck, and we try to get a little 
sleep. By and by, — bang, bang, bang, on the scuttle, — " All 
ha-a-ands, a-ho-o-y ! " We spring out of our berths, clap on a 
monkey jacket and southwester, and tumble up the ladder. 
Mate up before us, and on the forecastle, singing out like a 
roaring bull ; the captain singing out on the quarter-deck, and 
the second mate yelling, like a hyena, in the waist. The ship 
is lying over half upon her beam-ends ; lee scuppers under 
water, and forecastle all in a smother of foam. Rigging all 
let go, and washing about decks ; topsail yards down upon the 
caps, and sails flapping and beating against the masts ; and 
starboard watch hauling out the reef-tackles of the main top- 
sail. Our watch haul out the fore, and lay aloft and put two 
reefs into it, and reef the foresail, and race with the starboard 
watch to see which will mast-head its topsail first. All hands 
tally-on to the main tack, and while some are furling the jib 
and hoisting the staysail, we mizzen-top-men double-reef the 
mizzen topsail and hoist it up. All being made fast, — " Go 
below, the watch ! " and we turn-in to sleep out the rest of 
the time, which is perhaps an hour and a half. During all the 
middle, and for the first part of the morning watch, it blows 
as hard as ever, but toward daybreak it moderates consider- 
ably, and we shake a reef out of each topsail, and set the top- 
gallant-sails over them ; and when the watch come up, at seven 
bells, for breakfast, shake the other reefs out, turn all hands 
to upon the halyards, get the watch-tackle upon the top-gallant 
sheets and halyards, set the flying-jib, and crack on to her 
again. 

Our captain had been married only a few weeks before he 
left Boston, and, after an absence of over two years, it may 
be supposed he was not slow in carrying sail. The mate, too, 
was not to be beaten by anybody ; and the second mate, 
though he was afraid to press sail, was still more afraid of the 
captain, and, being between two fears, sometimes carried on 
longer than any of them. We snapped off three flying-jib- 
booms in twenty-four hours, as fast as they could be fitted and 



i 



SCURVY 379 

rigged out ; sprung the spritsail yard, and made nothing of 
studding-sail booms. Beside the natural desire to get home, 
we had another reason for urging the ship on. The scurvy 
had begun to show itself on board. One man had it so badly 
as to be disabled and off duty, and the English lad, Ben, was 
in a dreadful state, and was daily growing worse. His legs 
swelled and pained him so that he could not walk ; his flesh 
lost its elasticity, so that if pressed in it would not return to 
its shape ; and his gums swelled until he could not open his 
mouth. His breath, too, became very offensive; he lost all 
strength and spirit ; could eat nothing ; grew worse every day ; 
and, in fact, unless something was done for him, would be a 
dead man in a week, at the rate at which he was sinking. 
The medicines were all, or nearly all, gone, and if we had had 
a chest-full, they would have been of no use, for nothing but 
fresh provisions and terra firma has any effect upon the scurvy. 
This disease is not so common now as formerly, and is at- 
tributed generally to salt provisions, want of cleanliness, the 
free use of grease and fat (which is the reason of its prevalence 
among whalemen), and, last of all, to laziness. It never could 
have been from the last cause on board our ship ; nor from the 
second, for we were a very cleanly crew, kept our forecastle 
in neat order, and were more particular about washing and 
changing clothes than many better-dressed people on shore. 
It was probably from having none but salt provisions, and 
possibly from our having run very rapidly into hot weather, 
after our having been so long in the extremest cold. 

Depending upon the westerly winds which prevail off the 
coast in the autumn, the captain stood well to the westward, to 
run inside of the Bermudas, and in the hope of falling in with 
some vessel bound to the West Indies or the Southern States. 
The scurvy had spread no further among the crew, but there 
was danger that it might ; and these cases were bad ones. 

Sunday, September nth. Lat. 30° 04' N., Ion. 63° 23' W. ; 
the Bermudas bearing north-northwest, distant one hundred 
and fifty miles. The next morning about ten o'clock, " Sail 



380 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ho ! " was cried on deck ; and all hands turned up to see the 
stranger. As she drew nearer, she proved to be an ordinary- 
looking hermaphrodite brig, standing south-southeast, and 
probably bound out from the Northern States to the West 
Indies, and was just the thing we wished to see. She hove-to 
for us, seeing that we wished to speak her, and we ran down 
to her, boom-ended our studding-sails, backed our main top- 
sail, and hailed her : '' Brig ahoy ! " " Hallo ! " " Where are 
you from, pray.?" "From New York, bound to Curagoa." 
"Have you any fresh provisions to spare.''" "Aye, aye! 
plenty of them ! " We lowered away the quarter-boat in- 
stantly, and the captain and four hands sprang in, and were 
soon dancing over the water and alongside the brig. In about 
half an hour they returned with half a boat-load of potatoes 
and onions, and each vessel filled away and kept on her course. 
She proved to be the brig Solon, of Plymouth, from the Con- 
necticut River, and last from New York, bound to the Spanish 
Main, with a cargo of fresh provisions, mules, tin bake-pans, 
and other notions. The onions were fresh ; and the mate of 
the brig told the men in the boat, as he passed the bunches 
over the side, that the girls had strung them on purpose for 
us the day we sailed. We had made the mistake, on board, 
of supposing that a new President had been chosen the last 
winter, and, as we filled away, the captain hailed and asked 
who was President of the United States. They answered, 
Andrew Jackson ; but, thinking that the old General could 
not have been elected for a third time, we hailed again, and 
they answered. Jack Downing, and left us to correct the mis- 
take at our leisure. 

Our boat's crew had a laugh upon one of our number, Joe, 
who was vain and made the best show of everything. The 
style and gentility of a ship and her crew depend upon 
the length and character of the voyage. An India or China 
voyage always is the thing, and a voyage to the Northwest 
coast (the Columbia River or Russian America) for furs is 
romantic and mysterious, and if it takes the ship round the 



A FRIEND IN NEED 3^1 

world, by way of the Islands and China, it out-ranks them all. 
The grave, slab-sided mate of the schooner leaned over the rail, 
and spoke to the men in our boat : " Where are you from ? " 
Joe answered up quick, ** From the Nor' west coast." " What 's 
your cargo ? " This was a poser ; but Joe was ready with an 
equivoke, "Skins," said he. "Here and there a horn.?" 
asked the mate, in the dryest manner. The boat's crew 
laughed out, and Joe's glory faded. Apropos of this, a man 
named Sam, on board the Pilgrim, used to tell a story of a 
mean little captain in a mean little brig, in which he sailed 
from Liverpool to New York, who insisted on speaking a 
great, homeward-bound Indiaman, with her studding sails 
out on both sides, sunburnt men in wide-brimmed hats on her 
decks, and a monkey and paroquet in her rigging, "rolling 
down from St. Helena." There was no need of his stopping 
her to speak her, but his vanity led him to do it, and then his 
meanness made him so awestruck that he seemed to quail. 
He called out, in a small, lisping voice, " What ship is that, 
pray.?" A deep-toned voice roared through the trumpet, 
" The Bashaw, from Canton, bound to Boston. Hundred and 
ten days out ! Where are you from }" " Only from Liver- 
pool, sir," he lisped, in the most apologetic and subservient 
voice. But the humour will be felt by those only who know 
the ritual of hailing at sea. No one says "sir," and the 
" only " was wonderfully expressive. 

It was just dinner-time when we filled away, and the 
steward, taking a few bunches of onions for the cabin, gave 
the rest to us, with a bottle of vinegar. We carried them for- 
ward, stowed them away in the forecastle, refusing to have 
them cooked, and ate them raw, with our beef and bread. 
And a glorious treat they were. The freshness and crispness 
of the raw onion, with the earthy taste, give it a great relish 
to one who has been a long time on salt provisions. We were 
ravenous after them. It was like a scent of blood to a hound. 
We ate them at every meal, by the dozen, and filled our 
pockets with them, to eat in our watch on deck ; and the 



382 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

bunches, rising in the form of a cone, from the largest at 
the bottom, to the smallest, no larger than a strawberry, at the 
top, soon disappeared. The chief use, however, of the fresh 
provisions, was for the men with the scurvy. One of them 
was able to eat, and he soon brought himself to, by gnawing 
upon raw potatoes and onions ; but the other, by this time, 
was hardly able to open his mouth, and the cook took the 
potatoes raw, pounded them in a mortar, and gave him the juice 
to drink. This he swallowed, by the teaspoonful at a time, 
and rinsed it about his gums and throat. The strong earthy 
taste and smell of this extract of the raw potato at first pro- 
duced a shuddering through his whole frame, and, after drink- 
ing it, an acute pain, which ran through all parts of his body ; 
but knowing by this that it was taking strong hold, he per- 
severed, drinking a spoonful every hour or so, and holding it 
a long time in his mouth, until, by the effect of this drink, and 
of his own restored hope (for he had nearly given up in des- 
pair), he became so well as to be able to move about, and open 
his mouth enough to eat the raw potatoes and onions pounded 
into a soft pulp. This course soon restored his appetite and 
strength, and in ten days after we spoke the Solon, so rapid 
was his recovery that, from lying helpless and almost hopeless 
in his berth, he was at the mast-head, furling a royal. 

With a fine southwest wind we passed inside of the Ber- 
mudas, and notwithstanding the old couplet, which was quoted 
again and again by those who thought we should have one 
more touch of a storm before our voyage was up, — 

«' If the Bermudas let you pass, 
You must beware of Hatteras, " — 

we were to the northward of Hatteras, with good weather, 
and beginning to count, not the days, but the hours, to the 
time when we should be at anchor in Boston harbour. 

Our ship was in fine order, all hands having been hard at 
work upon her, from daylight to dark, every day but Sunday 
from the time we got into warm weather on this side the Cape. 



PREPARING FOR PORT 383 

It is a common notion with landsmen that a ship is in her 
finest condition when she leaves port to enter upon her voy- 
age, and that she comes home, after a long absence, — 

♦* With over- weathered ribs and ragged sails ; 
Lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind." 

But so far from that, unless a ship meets with some accident, 
or comes upon the coast in the dead of winter, when work 
can not be done upon the rigging, she is in her finest order at 
the end of the voyage. When she sails from port, her rig- 
ging is generally slack ; the masts need staying ; the decks 
and sides are black and dirty from taking in cargo ; riggers' 
seizings and overhand knots in place of nice seamanlike work ; 
and everything, to a sailor's eye, adrift. But on the passage 
home the fine weather between the tropics is spent in putting 
the ship in the neatest order. No merchant vessel looks 
better than an Indiaman, or a Cape Horner, after a long voy- 
age, and captains and mates stake their reputation for sea- 
manship upon the appearance of their ships when they haul 
into the dock. All our standing rigging, fore and aft, was set 
up and tarred, the masts stayed, the lower and topmast rig- 
ging rattled down (or up, as the fashion now is) ; and so care- 
ful were our officers to keep the ratlines taut and straight, 
that we were obliged to go aloft upon the ropes and shearpoles 
with which the rigging was shifted in ; and these were used 
as jury ratlines until we got close upon the coast. After this 
the ship was scraped, inside and out, decks, masts, booms, 
and all ; a stage being rigged outside, upon which we scraped 
her down to the water-line, pounding the rust off the chains, 
bolts, and fastenings. Then, taking two days of calm under 
the line, we painted her on the outside, giving her open ports 
in her streak, and finishing off the nice work upon the stern, 
where sat Neptune in his car, holding his trident, drawn by 
sea horses ; and retouched the gilding and colouring of the 
cornucopia which ornamented her billet-head. The inside 
was then painted, from the skysail truck to the waterways, — 



384 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

the yards, black ; mast-heads and tops, white ; monkey-rail, 
black, white, and yellow ; bulwarks, green ; plank-shear, white ; 
waterways, lead-colour, etc. The anchors and ring-bolts, and 
other iron work, were blackened with coal-tar ; and the stew- 
ard was kept at work, polishing the brass of the wheel, bell, 
capstan, etc. The cabin, too, was scraped, varnished, and 
painted ; and the forecastle scraped and scrubbed, there being 
no need of paint and varnish for Jack's quarters. The decks 
were then scraped and varnished, and everything useless 
thrown overboard ; among which, the empty tar barrels were 
set on fire and thrown overboard, of a dark night, and left 
blazing astern, lighting up the ocean for miles. Add to all 
this labour the neat work upon the rigging, — the knots, 
flemish-eyes, splices, seizings, coverings, pointings, and graff- 
ings which show a ship in crack order. The last preparation, 
and which looked still more like coming into port, was getting 
the anchors over the bows, bending the cables, rowsing the 
hawsers up from between decks, and overhauling the deep- 
sea lead-line. 

Thursday, September i^th. This morning the temperature 
and peculiar appearance of the water, the quantities of gulf- 
weed floating about, and a bank of clouds lying directly before 
us, showed that we were on the border of the Gulf Stream. 
This remarkable current, running northeast, nearly across the 
ocean, is almost constantly shrouded in clouds and is the 
region of storms and heavy seas. Vessels often run from a 
clear sky and light wind, with all sail, at once into a heavy 
sea and cloudy sky, with double-reefed topsails. A sailor told 
me that, on a passage from Gibraltar to Boston, his vessel 
neared the Gulf Stream with a light breeze, clear sky, and 
studding-sails out, alow and aloft ; while before it was a long 
line of heavy, black clouds, lying like a bank upon the water, 
and a vessel coming out of it, under double-reefed topsails, 
and with royal yards sent down. As they drew near, they 
began to take in sail after sail, until they were reduced to the 
same condition ; and, after twelve or fourteen hours of rolling 



THE GULF STREAM 385 

and pitching in a heavy sea, before a smart gale, they ran out 
of the bank on the other side, and were in fine weather again, 
and under their royals and sky sails. As we drew into it, the 
sky became cloudy, the sea high, and everything had the 
appearance of the going off, or the coming on, of a storm. 
It was blowing no more than a stiff breeze ; yet the wind 
being northeast, which is directly against the course of the 
current, made an ugly, chopping sea, which heaved and pitched 
the vessel about, so that we were obliged to send down the 
royal yards, and to take in our light sails. At noon, the ther- 
mometer, which had been repeatedly lowered into the water, 
showed the temperature to be seventy ; which was consider- 
ably above that of the air, — as is always the case in the cen- 
tre of the Stream. A lad who had been at work at the royal- 
mast-head came down upon deck, and took a turn round the 
long-boat ; and, looking pale, said he was so sick that he could 
stay aloft no longer, but was ashamed to acknowledge it to 
the officer. He went up again, but soon gave out and came 
down, and leaned over the rail, "as sick as a lady passenger." 
He had been to sea several years, and had, he said, never 
been sick before. He was made so by the irregular pitching 
motion of the vessel, increased by the height to which he had 
been above the hull, which is like the fulcrum of the lever. 
An old sailor, who was at work on the top-gallant yard, said 
he felt disagreeably all the time, and was glad, when his job 
was done, to get down into the top, or upon deck. Another 
hand was sent to the royal-mast-head, who stayed nearly an 
hour, but gave up. The work must be done, and the mate 
sent me. I did very well for some time, but began at length 
to feel very unpleasantly, though I never had been sick since 
the first two days from Boston, and had been in all sorts of 
weather and situations. Still, I kept my place, and did not 
come down until I had got through my work, which was more 
than two hours. The ship certainly never acted so before. 
She was pitched and jerked about in all manner of ways ; the 
sails seeming to have no steadying power over her. The 



386 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

tapering points of the masts made various curves against 
the sky overhead, and sometimes, in one sweep of an instant, 
described an arc of more than forty-five degrees, bringing up 
with a sudden jerk, which made it necessary to hold on with 
both hands, and then sweeping off in another long, irregular 
curve. I was not positively sick, and came down with a look 
of indifference, yet was not unwilling to get upon the com- 
parative terra firma of the deck. A few hours more carried 
us through, and when we saw the sun go down, upon our lar- 
board beam, in the direction of the continent of North America, 
we had left the bank of dark, stormy clouds astern, in the 
twilight. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

FRIDAY, September i6th. Lat. 38° N., Ion. 69° 00' W. 
A fine southwest wind ; every hour carrying us nearer 
in toward the land. All hands on deck at the dog 
watch, and nothing talked about but our getting in ; where 
we should make the land ; whether we should arrive before 
Sunday ; going to church ; how Boston would look ; friends ; 
wages paid ; and the like. Every one was in the best spirits ; 
and, the voyage being nearly at an end, the strictness of dis- 
cipline was relaxed, for it was not necessary to order in a cross 
tone what all were ready to do with a will. The differences 
and quarrels which a long voyage breeds on board a ship were 
forgotten, and every one was friendly ; and two men, who had 
been on the eve of a fight half the voyage, were laying out a 
plan together for a cruise on shore. When the mate came 
forward, he talked to the men, and said we should be on 
George's Bank before to-morrow noon ; and joked with the 
boys, promising to go and see them, and to take them down 
to Marblehead in a coach. 

Saturday, lyth. The wind was light all day, which kept 
us back somewhat ; but a fine breeze springing up at nightfall, 
we were running fast in toward the land. At six o'clock we 
expected to have the ship hove-to for soundings, as a thick fog, 
coming up, showed we were near them ; but no order was 
given, and we kept on our way. Eight o'clock came, and the 
watch went below, and, for the whole of the first hour the ship 
was driving on, with studding-sails out, alow and aloft, and the 
night as dark as a pocket. At two bells the captain came 
on deck, and said a word to the mate, when the studding-sails 
were hauled into the tops, or boom-ended, the after yards 
backed, the deep-sea-lead carried forward, and everything got 

387 



388 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

ready for sounding, A man on the spritsail yard with the 
lead, another on the cat-head with a handful of the line coiled 
up, another in the fore chains, another in the waist, and an- 
other in the main chains, each with a quantity of the line 
coiled away in his hand. **A11 ready there, forward?" — 
" Aye, aye, sir ! " — '' He-e-ave ! " — '' Watch ! ho ! watch ! " 
sings out the man on the spritsail yard, and the heavy lead 
drops into the water. " Watch ! ho ! watch ! " bawls the man 
on the cat-head, as the last fake of the coil drops from his 
hand, and " Watch ! ho ! watch ! " is shouted by each one as 
the line falls from his hold, until it comes to the mate, who 
tends the lead, and has the line in coils on the quarter-deck. 
Eighty fathoms and no bottom ! A depth as great as the 
height of St. Peters ! The line is snatched in a block upon 
the swifter, and three or four men haul it in and coil it away. 
The after yards are braced full, the studding-sails hauled out 
again, and in a few minutes more, the ship had her whole way 
upon her. At four bells backed again, hove the lead, and — 
soundings ! at sixty fathoms ! Hurrah for Yankee land ! 
Hand over hand we hauled the lead in, and the captain, tak- 
ing it to the light, found black mud on the bottom. Studding- 
sails taken in ! after yards filled, and ship kept on under easy 
sail all night, the wind dying away. 

The soundings on the American coast are so regular that 
a navigator knows as well where he has made land by the 
soundings, as he would by seeing the land. Black mud is 
the soundings of Block Island. As you go toward Nantucket, 
it changes to a dark sand ; then, sand and white shells ; and 
on George's Bank, white sand ; and so on. As our soundings 
showed us to be off Block Island, our course was due east, to 
Nantucket Shoals and the South Channel ; but the wind died 
away and left us becalmed in a thick fog, in which we lay the 
whole of Sunday. At noon of — 

Sunday i8th, Block Island bore, by calculation, N. W. \ W. 
fifteen miles ; but the fog was so thick all day that we could 
see nothing. 



WAITING FOR A BREEZE 389 

Having got through the ship's duty, and washed and 
changed our clothes, we went below, and had a fine time over- 
hauling our chests, laying aside the clothes we meant to go 
ashore in, and throwing overboard all that were worn out and 
good for nothing. Away went the woollen caps in which we 
had carried hides upon our heads, for sixteen months, on the 
coast of California ; the duck frocks for tarring down rigging ; 
and the worn-out and darned mittens and patched woollen 
trousers which had stood the tug of Cape Horn. We hove 
them overboard with a good will ; for there is nothing like 
being quit of the very last appendages, remnants, and memen- 
toes of our hard fortune. We got our chests all ready for 
going ashore; ate the last "duff" we expected to have on 
board the ship Alert ; and talked as confidently about matters 
on shore as though our anchor were on the bottom. 

" Who '11 go to church with me a week from to-day } " 

"I will," says Jack ; who said aye to everything. 

" Go away, salt water ! " says Tom. " As soon as I get 
both legs ashore, I 'm going to shoe my heels, and button my 
ears behind me, and start off into the bush, a straight course, 
and not stop till I 'm out of the sight of salt water ! " 

" Oh ! belay that ! If you get once moored, stem and 
stern, in old Barnes's grog-shop, with a coal fire ahead and 
the bar under your lee, you won't see daylight for three 
weeks ! " 

" No ! " says Tom, " I 'm going to knock off grog and go 
and board at the Home, and see if they won't ship me for a 
deacon ! " 

"And I," says Bill, "am going to buy a quadrant and ship 
for navigator of a Hingham packet ! " 

Harry White swore he would take rooms at the Tremont 
House and set up for a gentleman ; he knew his wages would 
hold out for two weeks or so. 

These and the like served to pass the time while we were 
lying waiting for a breeze to clear up the fog and send us on 
our way. 



390 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Toward night a moderate breeze sprang up ; the fog, how- 
ever, contmuing as thick as before ; and we kept on to the 
eastward. About the middle of the first watch, a man on 
the forecastle sang out, in a tone which showed that there 
was not a moment to be lost, — " Hard up the helm ! " and 
a great ship loomed up out of the fog, coming directly down 
upon us. She luffed at the same moment, and we just passed 
each other, our spanker boom grazing over her quarter. 
The officer of the deck had only time to hail, and she answered, 
as she went into the fog again, something about Bristol. 
Probably a whaleman from Bristol, Rhode Island, bound out. 

The fog continued through the night, with a very light 
breeze, before which we ran to the eastward, literally feeling 
our way along. The lead was heaved every two hours, and 
the gradual change from black mud to sand showed that we 
were approaching Nantucket South Shoals, 

On Monday morning, the increased depth and dark-blue 
colour of the water, and the mixture of shells and white 
sand which we brought up, upon sounding, show that we were 
in the channel, and nearing George's ; accordingly, the 
ship's head was put directly to the northward, and we stood 
on, with perfect confidence in the soundings, though we 
had not taken an observation for two days, nor seen land; 
and the difference of an eighth of a mile out of the way 
might put us ashore. Throughout the day a provokingly 
light wind prevailed, and at eight o'clock, a small fishing 
schooner, which we passed, told us we were nearly abreast 
of Chatham lights. Just before midnight, a light land-breeze 
sprang up, which carried us well along; and at four o'clock, 
thinking ourselves to the northward of Race Point, we hauled 
upon the wind and stood into the bay, west-northwest, for 
Boston light, and began firing guns for a pilot. Our watch 
went below at four o'clock, but could not sleep, for the 
watch on deck were banging away at the guns every few 
minutes. And, indeed, we cared very little about it, for we 
were in Boston Bay ; and if fortune favoured us, we could all 



■A 




SIGHTS ABOUT HOME 391 

"sleep in" the next night, with nobody to call the watch 
every four hours. 

We turned out, of our own will, at daybreak, to get a 
sight of land. In the gray of the morning, one or two small 
fishing smacks peered out of the mist ; and when the broad 
day broke upon us, there lay the low sand-hills of Cape Cod 
over our larboard quarter, and before us the wide waters of 
Massachusetts Bay, with here and there a sail gliding over its 
smooth surface. As we drew in toward the mouth of the 
harbour, as toward a focus, the vessels began to multiply, until 
the bay seemed alive with sails gliding about in all directions ; 
some on the wind, and others before it, as they were bound to 
or from the emporium of trade and centre of the bay. It was 
a stirring sight for us, who had been months on the ocean 
without seeing anything but two solitary sails ; and over two 
years without seeing more than the three or four traders on 
an almost desolate coast. There were the little coasters, 
bound to and from the various towns along the south shore, 
down in the bight of the bay, and to the eastward ; here and 
there a square-rigged vessel standing out to seaward ; and, far 
in the distance, beyond Cape Ann, was the smoke of a steamer, 
stretching along in a narrow black cloud upon the water. 
Every sight was full of beauty and interest. We were coming 
back to our homes ; and the signs of civilization and prosperity 
and happiness, from which we had been so long banished, were 
multiplying about us. The high land of Cape Ann and the 
rocks and shore of Cohasset were full in sight, the lighthouses 
standing like sentries in white before the harbours ; and even 
the smoke from the chimneys on the plains of Hingham was 
seen rising slowly in the morning air. One of our boys was 
the son of a bucket-maker ; and his face lighted up as he saw 
the tops of the well-known hills which surrounded his native 
place. About ten o'clock a little boat came bobbing over the 
water, and put a pilot on board, and sheered off in pursuit of 
other vessels bound in. Being now within the scope of the 
telegraph stations, our signals were run up at the fore ; and in 



392 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

half an hour afterwards, the owner on 'Change, or in his 
counting-room, knew that his ship was below ; and the land- 
lords, runners, and sharks in Ann street learned that there 
was a rich prize for them down in the bay, — a ship from 
round the Horn, with a crew to be paid off with two years' 
wages. 

The wind continuing very light, all hands were sent aloft 
to strip off the chafing gear ; and battens, parcellings, round- 
ings, hoops, mats, and leathers came flying from aloft, and 
left the rigging neat and clean, stripped of all its sea bandag- 
ing. The last touch was put to the vessel by painting the 
skysail poles ; and I was sent up to the fore, with a bucket of 
white paint and a brush, and touched her off, from the truck 
to the eyes of the royal rigging. At noon we lay becalmed 
off the lower light-house ; and, it being about slack water, we 
made little progress. A firing was heard in the direction of 
Hingham, and the pilot said there was a review there. The 
Hingham boy got wind of this, and said if the ship had been 
twelve hours sooner he should have been down among the 
soldiers, and in the booths, and having a grand time. As it 
was, we had little prospect of getting in before night. About 
two o'clock a breeze sprang up ahead, from the westward, and 
we began beating up against it. A full-rigged brig was beat- 
ing in at the same time, and we passed each other in our 
tacks, sometimes one and sometimes the other working to 
windward, as the wind and tide favoured or opposed. It was 
my trick at the wheel from two till four ; and I stood my last 
helm, making between nine hundred and a thousand hours 
which I had spent at the helms of our two vessels. The tide 
beginning to set against us, we made slow work ; and the 
afternoon was nearly spent before we got abreast of the inner 
light. In the meanwhile, several vessels were coming down, 
outward bound ; among which, a fine, large ship, with yards 
squared, fair wind and fair tide, passed us like a race-horse, the 
men running out upon her yards to rig out the studding-sail 
booms. Toward sundown the wind came off in flaws, some- 



SIGHTS ABOUT HOME 393 

times blowing very stiff, so that the pilot took in the royals, 
and then it died away ; when, in order to get us in before the 
tide became too strong, the royals were set again. As this 
kept us running up and down the rigging, one hand was sent 
aloft at each mast-head, to stand by to loose and furl the sails 
at the moment of the order. I took my place at the fore, and 
loosed and furled the royal five times between Rainsford 
Island and the Castle. At one tack we ran so near to Rains- 
ford Island that, looking down from the royal yard, the island, 
with its hospital buildings, nice gravelled walks, and green 
plats, seemed to lie directly under our yard-arms. So close 
is the channel to some of these islands, that we ran the end 
of our flying-jib-boom over one of the outworks of the fortifi- 
cations on George's Island ; and had an opportunity of seeing 
the advantages of that point as a fortified place ; for, in work- 
ing up the channel, we presented a fair stem and stern, for 
raking, from the batteries, three or four times. One gun 
might have knocked us to pieces. 

We had all set our hearts upon getting up to town before 
night and going ashore, but the tide beginning to run strong 
against us, and the wind, what there was of it, being ahead, we 
made but little by weather-bowing the tide, and the pilot gave 
orders to cock-bill the anchor and overhaul the chain. Mak- 
ing two long stretches, which brought us into the roads, under 
the lee of the Castle, he clewed up the topsails, and let go the 
anchor ; and for the first time since leaving San Diego, — one 
hundred and thirty-five days, — our anchor was upon bottom. 
In half an hour more, we were lying snugly, with all sails 
furled, safe in Boston harbour ; our long voyage ended ; the 
well-known scene about us ; the dome of the State House 
fading in the western sky ; the lights of the city starting into 
sight, as the darkness came on ; and at nine o'clock the 
clangour of the bells, ringing their accustomed peals ; among 
which the Boston boys tried to distinguish the well-known 
tone of the Old South. 

We had just done furling the sails, when a beautiful little 



394 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

pleasure-boat luffed up into the wind, under our quarter, and 
the junior partner of the firm to which our ship belonged, 
Mr. Hooper, jumped on board. I saw him from the mizzen- 
topsail yard, and knew him well. He shook the captain by 
the hand, and went down into the cabin, and in a few minutes 
came up and inquired of the mate for me. 

The last time I had seen him I was in the uniform of 
an undergraduate of Harvard College, and now, to his 
astonishment, there came down from aloft a ''rough alley" 
looking fellow, with duck trousers and red shirt, long hair, 
and face burnt as dark as an Indian's. We shook hands, 
and he congratulated me upon my return and my appear- 
ance of health and strength, and said that my friends were 
all well. He had seen some of my family a few days 
before. I thanked him for telling me what I should not have 
dared to ask ; and if — 

" The first bringer of unwelcome news 
Hath but a losing office ; and his tongue 
Sounds ever after like a sullen bell," — 

certainly I ought ever to remember this gentleman and his 
words with pleasure. 

The captain went up to town in the boat with Mr. Hooper, 
and left us to pass another night on board ship, and to 
come up with the morning's tide under command of 
the pilot. 

So much did we feel ourselves at be already at home, in 
anticipation, that our plain supper of hard bread and salt beef 
was barely touched ; and many on board, to whom this was 
the first voyage, could scarcely sleep. 

As for myself, by one of those anomalous changes of 
feeling of which we are all the subjects, I found that I was in 
a state of indifference for which I could by no means account. 
A year before, while carrying hides on the coast, the assur- 
ance that in a twelvemonth we should see Boston made me 
half wild ; but now that I was actually there, and in sight of 



BOSTON HARBOUR 395 

home, the emotions which I had so long anticipated feeling 
I did not find, and in their place was a state of very nearly 
entire apathy. 

Something of the same experience was related to me by 
a sailor whose first voyage was one of five years upon the 
Northwest Coast. He had left home a lad, and when, after 
so many years of hard and trying experience, he found him- 
self homeward bound, such was the excitement of his feelings 
that, during the whole passage, he could talk and think of 
nothing else but his arrival, and how and when he should jump 
from the vessel and take his way directly home. Yet, when 
the vessel was made fast to the wharf and the crew dismissed, 
he seemed suddenly to lose all feeling about the matter. He 
told me that he went below and changed his dress ; took 
some water from the scuttle-butt and washed himself leisurely ; 
overhauled his chest, and put his clothes all in order ; took his 
pipe from its place, filled it, and, sitting down upon his chest, 
smoked it slowly for the last time. Here he looked round 
upon the forecastle in which he had spent so many years, and 
being alone and his shipmates scattered, began to feel actually 
unhappy. Home became almost a dream ; and it was not 
until his brother (who had heard of the ship's arrival) came 
down into the forecastle and told him of things at home, and 
who were waiting there to see him, that he could realize 
where he was, and feel interest enough to put him in motion 
toward that place for which he had longed, and of which he 
had dreamed, for years. 

There is probably so much of excitement in prolonged ex- 
pectation that the quiet realizing of it produces a momentary 
stagnation of feeling as well as of effort. It was a good deal 
so with me. The activity of preparation, the rapid progress 
of the ship, the first making land, the coming up the harbour, 
and old scenes breaking upon the view, produced a mental as 
well as bodily activity, from which the change to a perfect 
stillness, when both expectation and the necessity of labour 
failed, left a calmness, almost an indifference, from which I 



396 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

must be roused by some new excitement. And the next 
morning, when all hands were called, and we were busily at 
work, clearing the decks, and getting everything in readiness 
for going up to the wharves, — loading the guns for a salute, 
loosing the sails, and manning the windlass, — mind and body 
seemed to wake together. 

About ten o'clock a sea-breeze sprang up, and the pilot 
gave orders to get the ship under way. All hands manned 
the windlass, and the long-drawn " Yo, heave, ho ! " which we 
had last heard dying away among the desolate hills of San 
Diego, soon brought the anchor to the bows ; and, with a fair 
wind and tide, a bright sunny morning, royals and skysails set, 
ensign, streamer, signals, and pennant flying, and with our 
guns firing, we came swiftly and handsomely up to the city. 
Off the end of the wharf, we rounded-to, and let go our an- 
chor ; and no sooner was it on the bottom than the decks 
were filled with people : custom-house officers ; Topliff's agent, 
to inquire for news ; others, inquiring for friends on board, or 
left upon the coast ; dealers in grease, besieging the galley to 
make a bargain with the cook for his slush; "loafers" in 
general ; and, last and chief, boarding-house runners, to secure 
their men. 

Nothing can exceed the obliging disposition of these run- 
ners, and the interest they take in a sailor returned from 
a long voyage with a plenty of money. Two or three of 
them, at different times, took me by the hand ; pretended to 
remember me perfectly ; were quite sure I had boarded with 
them before I sailed ; were delighted to see me back ; gave 
me their cards ; had a hand-cart waiting on the wharf, on 
purpose to take my things up ; would lend me a hand to get 
my chest ashore ; bring a bottle of grog on board if we did 
not haul in immediately ; and the like. In fact, we could 
hardly get clear of them to go aloft and furl the sails. Sail 
after sail, for the hundreth time, in fair weather and in foul, 
we furled now for the last time together, and came down and 
took the warp ashore, manned the capstan, and with a chorus 



LEAVING THE SHIP 39/ 

which waked up half North End, and rang among the buildings 
in the dock, we hauled her in to the wharf. The city bells 
were just ringing one when the last turn was made fast and 
the crew dismissed ; and in five minutes more not a soul was 
left on board the good ship Alert but the old ship-keeper, 
who had come down from the counting-house to take charge 
of her. 



TWENTY- FOUR YEARS AFTER. 

IT was in the winter of 1835-6 that the ship Alert, in the 
prosecution of her voyage for hides on the remote and 
almost unknown coast of California, floated into the vast 
solitude of the Bay of San Francisco. All around was the 
stillness of nature. One vessel, a Russian, lay at anchor there, 
but during our whole stay not a sail came or went. Our trade 
was with remote Missions, which sent hides to us in launches 
manned by their Indians. Our anchorage was between a 
small island, called Yerba Buena, and a gravel beach in a little 
bight or cove of the same name, formed by two small, project- 
ing points. Beyond, to the westward of the landing-place, 
were dreary sand-hills, with little grass to be seen, and few 
trees, and beyond them higher hills, steep and barren, their 
sides gullied by the rains. Some five or six miles beyond the 
landing-place, to the right, was a ruinous Presidio, and some 
three or four miles to the left was the Mission of Dolores, as 
ruinous as the Presidio, almost deserted, with but few Indians 
attached to it, and but little property in cattle. Over a region 
far beyond our sight there were no other human habitations, 
except that an enterprising Yankee, years in advance of his 
time, had put up, on the rising ground above the landing, a 
shanty of rough boards, where he carried on a very small 
retail trade between the hide ships and the Indians. Vast 
banks of fog, invading us from the North Pacific, drove in 
through the entrance, and covered the whole bay ; and when 
they disappeared, we saw a few well-wooded islands, the sand- 
hills on the west, the grassy and wooded slopes on the east, 
and the vast stretch of the bay to the southward, where we 
were told lay the Missions of Santa Clara and San Jos6, and 
still longer stretches to the northward and northeastward, 

398 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 399 

where we understood smaller bays spread out, and large rivers 
poured in their tributes of waters. There were no settlements 
on these bays or rivers, and the few ranchos and Missions 
were remote and widely separated. Not only the neighbour- 
hood of our anchorage, but the entire region of the great bay, 
was a solitude. On the whole coast of California there was 
not a lighthouse, a beacon, or a buoy, and the charts were 
made up from old and disconnected surveys by British, Rus- 
sian, and Mexican voyagers. Birds of prey and passage, 
swooped and dived about us, wild beasts ranged through the 
oak groves, and as we slowly floated out of the harbour with 
the tide, herds of deer came to the water's edge, on the north- 
erly side of the entrance, to gaze at the strange spectacle. 

On the evening of Saturday, the 13th of August, 1859, 
the superb steamship Golden Gate, gay with crowds of pas- 
sengers, and lighting the sea for miles around with the glare 
of her signal lights of red, green, and white, and brilliant with 
lighted saloons and staterooms, bound up from the Isthmus 
of Panama, neared the entrance to San Francisco, the great 
centre of a world-wide commerce. Miles out at sea, on the 
desolate rocks of the Farallones, gleamed the powerful rays 
of one of the most costly and effective lighthouses in the 
world. As we drew in through the Golden Gate, another 
lighthouse met our eyes, and in the clear moonlight of the 
unbroken California summer we saw, on the right, a large 
fortification protecting the narrow entrance, and just before 
us the little island of Alcatraz confronted us, — one entire 
fortress. We bore round the point toward the old anchoring- 
ground of the hide ships, and there, covering the sand-hills 
and the valleys, stretching from the water's edge to the base 
of the great hills, and from the old Presidio to the Mission, 
flickering all over with the lamps of its streets and houses, 
lay a city of one hundred thousand inhabitants. Clocks tolled 
the hour of midnight from its steeples, but the city was alive 
from the salute of our guns, spreading the news that the 
fortnightly steamer had come, bringing mails and passengers 



400 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

from the Atlantic world. Clipper ships of the largest size 
lay at anchor in the stream, or were girt to the wharves ; and 
capacious high-pressure steamers, as large and showy as those 
of the Hudson or Mississippi, bodies of dazzling light, awaited 
the delivery of our mails to take their courses up the bay, 
stopping at Benicia and the United States Naval Station, and 
then up the great tributaries — the Sacramento, San Joaquin, 
and Feather rivers — to the far inland cities of Sacramento, 
Stockton, and Marysville. 

The dock into which we drew, and the streets about it, 
were densely crowded with express wagons and hand-carts to 
take luggage, coaches and cabs for passengers, and with men, 
— some looking out for friends among our hundreds of pas- 
sengers, — agents of the press, and a greater multitude eager 
for newspapers and verbal intelligence from the great Atlan- 
tic and European world. Through this crowd I made my 
way, along the well-built and well-lighted streets, as live as 
by day, where boys in high-keyed voices were already crying 
the latest New York papers ; and between one and two o'clock 
in the morning found myself comfortably abed in a commo- 
dious room, in the Oriental Hotel, which stood, as well as I 
could learn, on the filled-up cove, and not far from the spot 
where we used to beach our boats from the Alert. 

Sunday, August 14th. When I awoke in the morning, 
and looked from my windows over the city of San Francisco, 
with its storehouses, towers, and steeples ; its court-houses, 
theatres, and hospitals ; its daily journals ; its well-filled learned 
professions ; its fortresses and light-houses ; its wharves and 
harbour, with their thousand-ton clipper ships, more in number 
than London or Liverpool sheltered that day, itself one of the 
capitals of the American Republic, and the sole emporium of 
a new world, the awakened Pacific ; when I looked across the 
bay to the eastward, and beheld a beautiful town on the fertile, 
wooded shores of the Contra Costa, and steamers, large and 
small, the ferryboats to the Contra Costa, and capacious 
freighters and passenger-carriers to all parts of the great bay 



i 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 4OI 

and its tributaries, with lines of their smoke in the horizon, — 
when I saw all these things, and reflected on what I once was 
and saw here, and what now surrounded me, I could scarcely 
keep my hold on reality at all, or the genuineness of anything, 
and seemed to myself like one who had moved in " worlds not 
realized." 

I could not complain that I had not a choice of places of 
worship. The Roman Catholics have an archbishop, a cathe- 
dral, and five or six smaller churches, French, German, 
Spanish, and English ; and the Episcopalians a bishop, a 
cathedral, and three other churches ; the Methodists and 
Presbyterians have three or four each, and there are Congre- 
gationalists. Baptists, a Unitarian, and other societies. On 
my way to church, I met two classmates of mine at Harvard 
standing in a door-way, one a lawyer and the other a teacher, 
and made appointments for a future meeting. A little farther 
on I came upon another Harvard man, a fine scholar and wit, 
and full of cleverness and good humour, who invited me to 
go to breakfast with him at the French house, — he was a 
bachelor, and a late riser on Sundays. I asked him to show 
me the way to Bishop Kip's church. He hesitated, looked a 
little confused, and admitted that he was not as well up in 
certain classes of knowledge as in others, but, by a desperate 
guess, pointed out a wooden building at the foot of the street, 
which any one might have seen could not be right, and which 
turned out to be an African Baptist meeting-house. But my 
friend had many capital points of character, and I owed much 
of the pleasure of my visit to his attentions. 

The congregation at the Bishop's church was precisely like 
one you would meet in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. 
To be sure, the identity of the service makes one feel at once 
at home, but the people were alike, nearly all of the English 
race, though from all parts of the Union. The latest French 
bonnets were at the head of the chief pews, and business men 
at the foot. The music was without character, but there was 
an instructive sermon, and the church was full. 



402 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

I found that there were no services at any of the Protestant 
churches in the afternoon. They have two services on Sun- 
day ; at 1 1 A. M., and after dark. The afternoon is spent at 
home, or in friendly visiting, or teaching of Sunday schools, or 
other humane and social duties. 

This is as much the practice with what at home are called 
the strictest denominations as with any others. Indeed, I 
found individuals, as well as public bodies, affected in a marked 
degree by a change of oceans and by California life. One 
Sunday afternoon I was surprised at receiving the card of a 
man whom I had last known, some fifteen years ago, as a strict 
and formal deacon of a Congregational society in New Eng- 
land. He was a deacon still, in San Francisco, a leader in all 
pious works, devoted to his denomination and to total ab- 
stinence, — the same internally, but externally — what a 
change ! Gone was the downcast eye, the bated breath, the 
solemn, non-natural voice, the watchful gait, stepping as if he 
felt responsible for the balance of the moral universe ! He 
walked with a stride, an unlifted open countenance, his face 
covered with beard, whiskers, and mustache, his voice strong 
and natural, — and, in short, he had put off the New England 
deacon and become a human being. In a visit of an hour I 
learned much from him about the religious societies, the moral 
reforms, the " Dash-away s," — total abstinence societies, which 
had taken strong hold on the young and wilder parts of society, 
— and then of the Vigilance Committee, of which he was a 
member, and of more secular points of interest. 

In one of the parlours of the hotel, I saw a man of about 
sixty years of age, with his feet bandaged and resting in a 
chair, whom somebody addressed by the name of Lies.' Lies ! 
thought I, that must be the man who came across the country 
from Kentucky to Monterey while we lay there in the Pilgrim 
in 1835, and made a passage in the Alert, when he used to 
shoot with his rifle bottles hung from the top-gallant studding- 
sail-boom-ends. He married the beautiful Dona Rosalia 

I Pronounced Leese. 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 403 

Vallejo, sister of Don Guadalupe. There were the old high 
features and sandy hair. I put my chair beside him, and be- 
gan conversation, as any one may do in California. Yes, he 
was the Mr. Lies ; and when I gave my name he professed 
at once to remember me, and spoke of my book. I found that 
almost — I might perhaps say quite — every American in Cali- 
fornia had read it; for when California "broke out," as the 
phrase is, in 1 848, and so large a portion of the Anglo-Saxon 
race flocked to it, there was no book upon California but 
mine. Many who were on the coast at the time the book 
refers to, and afterwards read it, and remembered the Pilgrim 
and Alert, thought they also remembered me. But perhaps 
more did remember me than I was inclined at first to 
believe, for the novelty of a collegian coming out before the 
mast had drawn more attention to me than I was aware of 
at the time. 

Late in the afternoon, as there were vespers at the Roman 
Catholic churches, I went to that of Notre Dame des Victoires. 
The congregation was French, and a sermon in French was 
preached by an abb^ ; the music was excellent, all things airy 
and tasteful, and making one feel as if in one of the chapels in 
Paris. The Cathedral of St. Mary, which I afterwards visited, 
where the Irish attend, was a contrast indeed, and more like one 
of our stifling Irish Catholic churches in Boston or New York, 
with intelligence in so small a proportion to the number of 
faces. During the three Sundays I was in San Francisco, I 
visited three of the Episcopal churches, and the Congre- 
gational, a Chinese Mission Chapel, and on the Sabbath (Satur- 
day) a Jewish synagogue. The Jews are a wealthy and 
powerful class here. The Chinese, too, are numerous, and 
do a great part of the manual labour and small shop-keeping, 
and have some wealthy mercantile houses. 

It is noticeable that European continental fashions prevail 
generally in this city, — French cooking, lunch at noon, and 
dinner at the end of the day, with cafe noir after meals, and 
to a great extent the European Sunday, — to all which emi- 



404 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

grants from the United States and Great Britain seem to 
adapt themselves. Some dinners which were given to me at 
French restaurants were, it seemed to me, — a poor judge 
of such matters, to be sure, — as sumptuous and as good, in 
dishes and wines, as I have found in Paris. But I had a relish- 
maker which my friends at table did not suspect, — the remem- 
brance of the forecastle dinnejrs I ate here twenty-four years 
before. 

August ijth. The customs of California are free; and 
any person who knows about my book speaks to me. The 
newspapers have announced the arrival of the veteran pioneer 
of all. I hardly walk out without meeting or making acquaint- 
ances. I have already been invited to deliver the anniversary 
oration before the Pioneer Society, to celebrate the settlement 
of San Francisco. Any man is qualified for election into this 
society who came to California before 1853. What moderns 
they are ! I tell them of the time when Richardson's shanty 
of 1835 — not his adobe house of 1836 — was the only human 
habitation between the Mission and the Presidio, and when 
the vast bay, with all its tributaries and recesses, was a soli- 
tude, — and yet I am but little past forty years of age. They 
point out the place where Richardson's adobe house stood, and 
tell me that the first court and first town council were con- 
vened in it, the first Protestant worship performed in it, and 
in it the first capital trial by the Vigilance Committee held. 
I am taken down to the wharves, by antiquaries of a ten or 
twelve years' range, to identify the two points, now known as 
Clark's and Rincon, which formed the little cove of Yerba 
Buena, where we used, to beach our boats, — now filled up and 
built upon. The island we called "Wood Island," where we 
spent the cold days and nights of December, in our launch, 
getting wood for our year's supply, is clean shorn of trees ; 
and the bare rocks of Alcatraz Island, an entire fortress. I 
have looked at the city from the water, and at the water and 
islands from the city, but I can see nothing that recalls the 
times gone by, except the venerable Mission, the ruinous 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 405 

Presidio, the high hills in the rear of the town, and the great 
stretches of the bay in all directions. 

To-day I took a Calif ornian horse of the old style, — the 
run, the loping gait, — - and visited the Presidio. The walls 
stand as they did, with some changes made to accommodate 
a small garrison of United States troops. It has a noble situ- 
ation, and I saw from it a clipper ship of the very largest class, 
coming through the Gate, under her fore-and-aft sails. Thence 
I rode to the Fort, now nearly finished, on the southern shore 
of the Gate, and made an inspection of it. It is very expen- 
sive and of the latest style. One of the engineers here is 
Custis Lee, who has just left West Point at the head of his 
class, — a son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, who distinguished 
himself in the Mexican War. 

Another morning I ride to the Mission Dolores. It has a 
strangely solitary aspect, enhanced by its surroundings of the 
most uncongenial, rapidly growing modernisms ; the hoar of 
ages surrounded by the brightest, slightest, and rapidest of 
modern growths. Its old belfries still clanged with the dis- 
cordant bells, and mass was saying within, for it is used as 
a place of worship for the extreme south part of the city. 

In one of my walks about the wharves, I found a pile of 
dry hides lying by the side of a vessel. Here was something 
to feelingly persuade me what I had been, to recall a past 
scarce credible to myself. I stood lost in reflection. What 
were these hides — what were they not ? — to us, to me, a 
boy, twenty-four years ago ? These were our constant labour, 
our chief object, our almost habitual thought. They brought 
us out here, they kept us here, and it was only by getting 
them that we could escape from the coast and return to home 
and civilized life. If it had not been that I might be seen, 
I should have seized one, slung it over my head, walked off 
with it, and thrown it by the old toss — I do not believe yet 
a lost art — to the ground. How they called up to my mind 
the months of curing at San Diego, the year and more of 
beach and surf work, and the steeving of the ship for home ! 



406 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

I was in a dream of San Diego, San Pedro, — with its hill so 
steep for taking up goods, and its stones so hard to our bare 
feet, — and the cliffs of San Juan ! All this, too, is no more ! 
The entire hide-business is of the past, and to the present 
inhabitants of California a dim tradition. The gold discov- 
eries drew off all men from the gathering or cure of hides, the 
inflowing population made an end of the great droves of cattle ; 
and now not a vessel pursues the — I was about to say dear — 
the dreary, once hated business of gathering hides upon the 
coast, and the beach of San Diego is abandoned and its hide- 
houses have disappeared. Meeting a respectable-looking citi- 
zen on the wharf, I inquired of him how the hide-trade was 
carried on. " Oh," said he, "there is very little of it, and that 
is all here. The few that are brought in are placed under 
sheds in winter, or left out on the wharf in summer, and are 
loaded from the wharves into the vessels alongside. They 
form parts of cargoes of other materials." I really felt too 
much, at the instant, to express to him the cause of my interest 
in the subject, and only added, "Then the old business of 
trading up and down the coast and curing hides for cargoes is 
all over.?" "Oh, yes, sir," said he, "those old times of the 
Pilgrim and Alert and California, that we read about, are 
gone by." 

Saturday y August 20th. The steamer Senator makes 
regular trips up and down the coast, between San Francisco 
and San Diego, calling at intermediate ports. This is my 
opportunity to revisit the old scenes. She sails to-day, and I 
am off, steaming among the great clippers anchored in the 
harbour, and gliding rapidly round the point, past Alcatraz 
Island, the lighthouse, and through the fortified Golden Gate, 
and bending to the southward, — all done in two or three 
hours, which, in the Alert, under canvas, with head tides, 
variable winds, and sweeping currents to deal with, took us 
full two days. 

Among the passengers I noticed an elderly gentleman, 
thin, with sandy hair and a face that seemed familiar. He 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 40/ 

took off his glove and showed one shrivelled hand. It must 
be he ! I went to him and said, " Captain Wilson, I believe." 
Yes, that was his name. " I knew you, sir, when you com- 
manded the Ayacucho on this coast, in old hide-droghing 
times, in 1835-6." He was quickened by this, and at once 
inquiries were made on each side, and we were in full talk 
about the Pilgrim and Alert, Ayacucho and Loriotte, the Cali- 
fornia and Lagoda. I found he had been very much flattered 
by the praise I had bestowed in my book on his seamanship, 
especially in bringing the Pilgrim to her berth in San Diego 
harbour, after she had drifted successively into the Lagoda and 
Loriotte, and was coming into him. I had made a pet of his 
brig, the Ayacucho, which pleased him almost as much as my 
remembrance of his bride and their wedding, which I saw at 
Santa Barbara in 1836. Dona Ramona was now the mother 
of a large family, and Wilson assured me that if I would visit 
him at his rancho, near San Luis Obispo, I should find her still 
a handsome woman, and very glad to see me. How we 
walked the deck together, hour after hour, talking over the 
old times, — the ships, the captains, the crews, the traders on 
shore, the ladies, the missions, the southeasters ! indeed, where 
could we stop } He had sold the Ayacucho in Chili for a 
vessel of war, and had given up the sea, and had been for years 
a ranchero. (I learned from others that he had become one 
of the most wealthy and respectable farmers in the State, and 
that his rancho was well worth visiting.) Thompson, he said, 
had n't the sailor in him ; and he never could laugh enough at 
his fiasco in San Diego, and his reception by Bradshaw. 
Faucon was a sailor and a navigator. He did not know what 
had become of George Marsh (ante, pp. 219-222), except that 
he left him in Callao ; nor could he tell me anything of hand- 
some Bill Jackson (ante, p. 90), nor of Captain Nye of the 
Loriotte. I told him all I then knew of the ships, the mas- 
ters, and the officers. I found he had kept some run of my 
history, and needed little information. Old Senor Noriego of 
Santa Barbara, he told me, was dead, and Don Carlos and Don 



408 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Santiago, but I should find their children there, now in middle 
life. Doria Angustia, he said, I had made famous by my 
praises of her beauty and dancing, and I should have from her 
a royal reception. She had been a widow, and re-married 
since, and had a daughter as handsome as herself. The 
descendants of Noriego had taken the ancestral name of De 
la Guerra, as they were nobles of old Spain by birth ; and the 
boy Pablo, who used to make passages in the Alert, was now 
Don Pablo de la Guerra, a senator in the State legislature for 
Santa Barbara county. 

The points in the country, too, we noticed, as we passed 
them, — Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Point Ano Nuevo, the 
opening to Monterey, which to my disappointment we did not 
visit. No ; Monterey, the prettiest town on the coast, and 
its capital and seat of customs, had got no advantage from the 
great changes, was out of the way of commerce and of 
the travel to the mines and great rivers, and was not worth 
stopping at. Point Conception we passed in the night, a 
cheery light gleaming over the waters from its tall lighthouse, 
standing on its outermost peak. Point Conception ! That 
word was enough to recall all our experiences and dreads of 
gales, swept decks, topmast carried away, and the hardships 
of a coast service in the winter. But Captain Wilson tells me 
that the climate has altered ; that the southeasters are no longer 
the bane of the coast they once were, and that vessels now 
anchor inside the kelp at Santa Barbara and San Pedro all 
the year round. I should have thought this owing to his spend- 
ing his winters on a rancho instead of the deck of the Aya- 
cucho, had not the same thing been told me by others. 

Passing round Point Conception, and steering easterly, we 
opened the islands that form, with the mainland, the canal of 
Santa Barbara. There they are, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa ; 
and there is the beautiful point, Santa Buenaventura ; and 
there lies Santa Barbara on its plain, with its amphitheatre of 
high hills and distant mountains. There is the old white 
Mission with its belfries, and there the town, with its one- 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 409 

story adobe houses, with here and there a two-story wooden 
house of later build ; yet little is it altered, — the same repose 
in the golden sunlight and glorious climate, sheltered by its 
hills ; and then, more remindful than anything else, there roars 
and tumbles upon the beach the same grand surf of the great 
Pacific as on the beautiful day when the Pilgrim, after her five 
months' voyage, dropped her weary anchors here ; the same 
bright blue ocean, and the surf, making just the same monoto- 
nous, melancholy roar, and the same dreamy town, and gleam- 
ing white Mission, as when we beached our boats for the first 
time, riding over the breakers with shouting Kanakas, the 
three small hide-traders lying at anchor in the offing. But 
now we are the only vessel, and that an unromantic, sailless, 
sparless, engine-driven hulk ! 

I landed in the surf, in the old style, but it was not high 
enough to excite us, the only change being that I was some- 
how unaccountably a passenger, and did not have to jump 
overboard and steady the boat, and run her up by the gun- 
wales. 

Santa Barbara has gained but little. I should not know, 
from anything I saw, that she was now a seaport of the United 
States, a part of the enterprising Yankee nation, and not still a 
lifeless Mexican town. At the same old house, where Senor 
Noriego lived, on the piazza in front of the court-yard, where 
was the gay scene of the marriage of our agent, Mr. Robinson, 
to Dona Anita, where Don Juan Bandini and Dona Angustia 
danced, Don Pablo de la Guerra received me in a courtly 
fashion. I passed the day with the family, and in walking 
about the place ; and ate the old dinner with its accompani- 
ments of frijoles, native olives and grapes, and native wines. 
In due time I paid my respects to Dona Angustia, and, not- 
withstanding what Wilson told me, I could hardly believe that 
after twenty-four years there would still be so much of the 
enchanting woman about her. She thanked me for the kind, 
and, as she called them, greatly exaggerated compliments I 
had paid her ; and her daughter told me that all travelers who 



4IO TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

came to Santa Barbara called to see her mother, and that she 
herself never expected to live long enough to be a belle. 

Mr. Alfred Robinson, our agent in 1835-6, was here, with 
a part of his family. I did not know how he would receive 
me, remembering what I had printed to the world about him, 
at a time when I took little thought that the world was going 
to read it ; but there was no sign of offence, only a cordiality 
which gave him, as between us, rather the advantage in 
status. 

The people of this region are giving attention to sheep- 
raising, wine-making, and the raising of olives, just enough to 
keep the town from going backwards. 

But evening is drawing on, and our boat sails to-night. So, 
refusing a horse or carriage, I walk down, not unwilling to 
be a little early, that I may pace up and down the beach, look- 
ing off to the islands and the points, and watching the roaring, 
tumbling billows. How softening is the effect of time ! It 
touches us through the affections. I almost feel as if I were 
lamenting the passing away of something loved and dear, — 
the boats, the Kanakas, the hides, my old shipmates ! Death, 
change, distance, lend them a character which makes them quite 
another thing from the vulgar, wearisome toil of uninteresting, 
forced manual labour. 

The breeze freshened as we stood out to sea, and the wild 
waves rolled over the red sun, on the broad horizon of the 
Pacific ; but it is summer, and in summer there can be no bad 
weather in California. Every day is pleasant. Nature forbids 
a drop of rain to fall by day or night, or a wind to excite itself 
beyond a fresh summer breeze. 

The next morning we found ourselves at anchor in the Bay 
of San Pedro. Here was this hated, this thoroughly detested 
spot. Although we lay near, I could scarce recognize the hill 
up which we rolled and dragged and pushed and carried our 
heavy loads, and down which we pitched the hides, to carry 
them barefooted over the rocks to the floating long-boat. It 
was no longer the landing-place. One had been made at the 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 4II 

head of the creek, and boats discharged and took off cargoes 
from a mole or wharf, in a quiet place, safe from southeasters. 
A tug ran to take off passengers from the steamer to the 
wharf, — for the trade of Los Angeles is sufficient to support 
such a vessel. I got the captain to land me privately, in a 
small boat, at the old place by the hill. I dismissed the boat, 
and, alone, found my way to the high ground. I say found 
my way, for neglect and weather had left but few traces of the 
steep road the hide-vessels had built to the top. The cliff off 
which we used to throw the hides, and where I spent nights 
watching them, was more easily found. The population was 
doubled, that is to say, there were two houses, instead of one, 
on the hill. I stood on the brow and looked out toward the 
offing, the Santa Catalina Island, and, nearer, the melancholy 
Dead Man's Island, with its painful tradition, and recalled the 
gloomy days that followed the flogging, and fancied the Pil- 
grim at anchor in the offing. But the tug is going toward 
our steamer, and I must awake and be off. I walked along 
the shore to the new landing-place, where were two or three 
store-houses and other buildings, forming a small depot ; and 
a stage-coach, I found, went daily between this place and the 
Pueblo. I got a seat on the top of the coach, to which were 
tackled six little less than wild California horses. Each horse 
had a man at his head, and when the driver had got his reins 
in hand he gave the word, all the horses were let go at once, 
and away they went on a spring, tearing over the ground, the 
driver only keeping them from going the wrong way, for they 
had a wide, level pampa to run over the whole thirty miles to 
the Pueblo. This plain is almost treeless, with no grass, at 
least none now in the drought of midsummer, and is filled 
with squirrel-holes, and alive with squirrels. As we changed 
horses twice, we did not slacken our speed until we turned in- 
to the streets of the Pueblo. 

The Pueblo de los Angeles I found a large and flourish- 
ing town of about twenty thousand inhabitants, with brick 
sidewalks, and blocks of stone or brick houses. The three 



412 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

principal traders when we were here for hides in the Pilgrim 
and Alert are still among the chief traders of the place, — 
Stearns, Temple, and Warner, the two former being reputed 
very rich. I dined with Mr. Stearns, now a very old man, 
and met there Don Juan Bandini, to whom I had given a 
good deal of notice in my book. From him, as indeed from 
every one in this town, I met with the kindest attentions. 
The wife of Don Juan, who was a beautiful young girl when 
we were on the coast, Doiia Refugio, daughter of Don 
Santiago Argliello, the commandante of San Diego, was with 
him, and still handsome. This is one of several instances I 
have noticed of the preserving quality of the California climate. 
Here, too, was Henry Melius, who came out with me before 
the mast in the Pilgrim, and left the brig to be agent's clerk 
on shore. He had experienced varying fortunes here, and 
was now married to a Mexican lady, and had a family. I 
dined with him, and in the afternoon he drove me round to 
see the vineyards, the chief objects in this region. The 
vintage of last year was estimated at half a million of gallons. 
Every year new square miles of ground are laid down to vine- 
yards, and the Pueblo promises to be the centre of one of the 
largest wine-producing regions in the world. Grapes are 
a drug here, and I found a great abundance of figs, olives, 
peaches, pears, and melons. The climate is well suited to 
these fruits, but is too hot and dry for successful wheat crops. 

Towards evening, we started off in the stage-coach, with 
again our relays of six mad horses, and reached the creek 
before dark, though it was late at night before we got on 
board the steamer, which was slowly moving her wheels, 
under way for San Diego. 

As we skirted along the coast, Wilson and I recognized, 
or thought we did, in the clear moonlight, the rude white 
Mission of San Juan Capistrano, and its cliff, from which 
I had swung down by a pair of halyards to save a few hides, 
— a boy who could not be prudential, and who caught at 
every chance for adventure. 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 413 

As we made the high point off San Diego, Point Loma, 
we were greeted by the cheering presence of a Hghthouse. 
As we swept round it in the early morning, there, before us, 
lay the little harbour of San Diego, its low spit of sand, where 
the water runs so deep ; the opposite flats, where the Alert 
grounded in starting for home ; the low hills, without trees, 
and almost without brush ; the quiet little beach ; — but the 
chief objects, the hide-houses, my eye looked for in vain. 
They were gone, all, and left no mark behind. 

I wished to be alone, so I let the other passengers go up 

to the town, and was quietly pulled ashore in a boat, and left 

to myself. The recollections and the emotions all were sad, 

and only sad. 

Fugit, interea fugit irreparabile tempus. 

The past was real. The present, all about me, was unreal, un- 
natural, repellant. I saw the big ships lying in the stream, the 
Alert, the California, the Rosa, with her Italians ; then the 
handsome Ayacucho, my favourite ; the poor dear old Pilgrim, 
the home of hardship and hopelessness ; the boats passing to 
and fro ; the cries of the sailors at the capstan or falls ; the 
peopled beach ; the large hide-houses, with their gangs of 
men ; and the Kanakas interspersed everywhere. All, all were 
gone ! not a vestige to mark where one hide-house stood. The 
oven, too, was gone. I searched for its site, and found, 
where I thought it should be, a few broken bricks and bits of 
mortar. I alone was left of all, and how strangely was I 
here ! What changes to me ! Where were they all ? Why 
should I care for them, — poor Kanakas and sailors, the refuse 
of civilization, the outlaws and beachcombers of the Pacific ! 
Time and death seemed to transfigure them. Doubtless nearly 
all were dead ; but how had they died, and where ? In hos- 
pitals, in fever-climes, in dens of vice, or falling from the mast, 
or dropping exhausted from the wreck, — 

<* When for a moment, like a drop of rain, 
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, 
Without a grave, unknelled, uncofEned, and unknown." 



414 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

The light-hearted boys are now hardened middle-aged men, if 
the seas, rocks, fevers, and the deadlier enemies that beset a 
sailor's life on shore have spared them ; and the then strong 
men have bowed themselves, and the earth or sea has covered 
them. 

Even the animals are gone, — the colony of dogs, the 
broods of poultry, the useful horses ; but the coyotes bark 
still in the woods, for they belong not to man, and are not 
touched by his changes. 

I walked slowly up the hill, finding my way among the few 
bushes, for the path was long grown over, and sat down where 
we used to rest in carrying our burdens of wood, and to look 
out for vessels that might, though so seldom, be coming down 
from the windward. 

To rally myself by calling to mind my own better fortune 
and nobler lot, and cherished surroundings at home, was im- 
possible. Borne down by depression, the day being yet at its 
noon, and the sun over the old point, — it is four miles to the 
town, the Presidio, — I have walked it often, and can do it 
once more, — I passed the familiar objects, and it seemed to 
me that I remembered them better than those of any other 
place I had ever been in ; — the opening to the little cave ; the 
low hills where we cut wood and killed rattlesnakes, and where 
our dogs chased the coyotes ; and the black ground where so 
many of the ship's crew and beachcombers used to bring up 
on their return at the end of a liberty day, and spend the 
night sub Jove. 

The little town of San Diego has undergone no change 
whatever that I can see. It certainly has not grown. It is 
still, like Santa Barbara, a Mexican town. The four principal 
houses of the gente de razon — of the Bandinis, Estudillos, 
Argiiellos, and Picos — are the chief houses now ; but all the 
gentlemen — and their families, too, I believe — are gone. 
The big vulgar shopkeeper and trader, Fitch, is long since 
dead ; Tom Wrightington, who kept the rival pulperia, fell 
from his horse when drunk, and was found nearly eaten up by 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 415 

coyotes ; and I can scarce find a person whom I remember. 
I went into a familiar one-story adobe house, with its piazza 
and earthen floor, inhabited by a respectable lower-class fam- 
ily by the name of Muchado, and inquired if any of the family 
remained, when a bright-eyed middle-aged woman recognized 
me, for she had heard I was on board the steamer, and told 
me she had married a shipmate of mine, Jack Stewart, who 
went out as second mate the next voyage, but left the ship 
and married and settled here. She said he wished very much 
to see me. In a few minutes he came in, and his sincere 
pleasure in meeting me was extremely grateful. We talked 
over old times as long as I could afford to. I was glad to 
hear that he was sober and doing well. Dona Tomasa Pico 
I found and talked with. She was the only person of the 
old upper class that remained on the spot, if I rightly recollect. 
I found an American family here, with whom I dined, — • 
Doyle and his wife, nice young people, Doyle agent for the 
great line of coaches to run to the frontier of the old States. 

I must complete my acts of pious remembrance, so I take 
a horse and make a run out to the old Mission, where Ben 
Stimson and I went the first liberty day .we had after we left 
Boston (ante, p. 125). All has gone to decay. The buildings 
are unused and ruinous, and the large gardens show now only 
wild cactuses, willows, and a few olive-trees. A fast run 
brings me back in time to take leave of the few I knew and 
who knew me, and to reach the steamer before she sails. A 
last look — yes, last for life — to the beach, the hills, the low 
point, the distant town, as we round Point Loma and the first 
beams of the lighthouse strike out towards the setting sun. 

Wednesday y August 2 ph. At anchor at San Pedro by 
daylight. But instead of being roused out of the forecastle 
to row the long-boat ashore and bring off a load of hides before 
breakfast, we were served with breakfast in the cabin, and 
again took our drive with the wild horses to the Pueblo and 
spent the day ; seeing nearly the same persons as before, 
and again getting back by dark. We steamed again for Santa 



4l6 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

Barbara, where we only lay an hour, and passed through its 
canal and round Point Conception, stopping at San Luis 
Obispo to land my friend, as I may truly call him after this 
long passage together. Captain Wilson, whose most earnest 
invitation to stop here and visit him at his rancho I was 
obliged to decline. 

Friday evenings 26th Atigust, we entered the Golden Gate, 
passed the lighthouses and forts, and clipper ships at anchor, 
and came to our dock, with this great city, on its high hills 
and rising surfaces, brilliant before us, and full of eager life. 

Making San Francisco my headquarters, I paid visits to 
various parts of the State, — down the Bay to Santa Clara, 
with its live oaks and sycamores, and its Jesuit college for 
boys ; and San Jose, where is the best girls' school in the 
State, kept by the Sisters of Notre Dame, — a town now 
famous for a year's session of " The legislature of a thousand 
drinks," — and thence to the rich Almaden quicksilver mines, 
returning on the Contra Costa side through the rich agricul- 
tural country, with its ranchos and the vast grants of the 
Castro and Soto families, where farming and fruit-raising are 
done on so large a scale. Another excursion was up the San 
Joaquin to Stockton, a town of some ten thousand inhabi- 
tants, a hundred miles from San Francisco, and crossing the 
Tuolumne and Stanislaus and Merced, by the little Spanish 
town of Hornitos, and Snelling's Tavern, at the ford of the 
Merced, where so many fatal fights are had. Thence I went 
to Mariposa county, and Colonel Fremont's mines, and made 
an interesting visit to *'the Colonel," as he is called all over 
the country, and Mrs. Fremont, a heroine equal to either for- 
tune, the salons of Paris and the drawing-rooms of New York 
and Washington, or the roughest life of the remote and wild 
mining regions of Mariposa, — with their fine family of spir- 
ited, clever children. After a rest there, we went on to Clark's 
Camp and the Big Trees, where I measured one tree ninety- 
seven feet in circumference without its bark, and the bark is 
usually eighteen inches thick ; and rode through another which 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 41/ 

lay on the ground, a shell, with all the insides out, — rode 
through it mounted, and sitting at full height in the saddle ; 
then to the wonderful Yosemite Valley, — itself a stupendous 
miracle of nature, with its Dome, its Capitan, its walls of three 
thousand feet of perpendicular height, — but a valley of streams, 
of waterfalls, from the torrent to the mere shimmer of a bridal 
veil, only enough to reflect a rainbow, with their plunges of 
twenty-five hundred feet, or their smaller falls of eight hun- 
dred, with nothing at the base but thick mists, which form and 
trickle, and then run and at last plunge into the blue Merced 
that flows through the centre of the valley. Back by the 
Coulterville trail, the peaks of Sierra Nevada in sight, across 
the North Fork of the Merced, by Gentry's gulch, over hills 
and through canons, to Fremont's again, and thence to 
Stockton and San Francisco, — all this at the end of August, 
when there has been no rain for four months, and the air is 
clear and very hot, and the ground perfectly dry ; windmills, 
to raise water for artificial irrigation of small patches, seen all 
over the landscape, while we travel through square miles of 
hot dust, where they tell us, and truly, that in winter and early 
spring we should be up to our knees in flowers ; a country, 
too, where surface gold-digging is so common and unnoticed 
that the large, six-horse stage-coach, in which I travelled from 
Stockton to Hornitos, turned off in the high road for a China- 
man, who, with his pan and washer, was working up a hole 
which an American had abandoned, but where the minute 
and patient industry of the Chinaman averaged a few dollars 
a day. 

These visits were so full of interest, with grandeurs and 
humours of all sorts, that I am strongly tempted to describe 
them. But I remember that I am not to write a journal of a 
visit over the new California, but to sketch briefly the contrasts 
with the old spots of 1835-6, and I forbear. 

How strange and eventful has been the brief history of this 
marvellous city, San Francisco ! In 1835 there was one board 
shanty. In 1836, one adobe house on the same spot. In 



41 8 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

1847, ^ population of four hundred and fifty persons, who 
organized a town government. Then came the auri sacra 
fames, the flocking together of many of the worst spirits of 
Christendom ; a sudden birth of a city of canvas and boards, 
entirely destroyed by fire five times in eighteen months, with 
a loss of sixteen millions of dollars, and as often rebuilt, until 
it became a solid city of brick and stone, of nearly one hundred 
thousand inhabitants, with all the accompaniments of wealth 
and culture, and now (in 1859) the most quiet and well- 
governed city of its size in the United States. But it has 
been through its season of heaven-defying crime, violence, 
and blood, from which it was rescued and handed back to 
soberness, morality, and good government, by that peculiar 
invention of Anglo-Saxon Republican America, the solemn, 
awe-inspiring Vigilance Committee of the most grave and 
responsible citizens, the last resort of the thinking and the 
good, taken to only when vice, fraud, and ruf^anism have in- 
trenched themselves behind the forms of law, suffrage, and 
ballot, and there is no hope but in organized force, whose 
action must be instant and thorough, or its state will be worse 
than before. A history of the passage of this city through 
those ordeals, and through its almost incredible financial ex- 
tremes, should be written by a pen which not only accuracy 
shall govern, but imagination shall inspire. 

I can not pause for the civility of referring to the many kind 
attentions I received, and the society of educated men and 
women from all parts of the Union I met with ; where New 
England, the Carolinas, Virginia, and the new West sat side 
by side with English, French and German civilization. 

My stay in California was interrupted by an absence of 
nearly four months, when I sailed for the Sandwich Islands 
in the noble Boston clipper ship Mastiff, which was burned at 
sea to the water's edge ; we escaping in boats, and carried 
by a friendly British bark into Honolulu, whence, after a deeply 
interesting visit of three months in that most fascinating group 
of islands, with its natural and its moral wonders, I returned 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 4^9 

to San Francisco in an American whaler, and found myself 
again in my quarters on the morning of Sunday, December 
nth, 1859. 

My first visit after my return was to Sacramento, a city of 
about forty thousand inhabitants, more than a hundred miles 
inland from San Francisco, on the Sacramento, where was the 
capital of the State, and where were fleets of river steamers, 
and a large inland commerce. Here I saw the inauguration 
of a governor, Mr. Latham, a young man from Massachusetts, 
much my junior; and met a member of the State Senate, a 
man who, as a carpenter, repaired my father's house at home 
some ten years before ; and two more senators from southern 
California, relics of another age, — Don Andres Pico, from 
San Diego ; and Don Pablo de la Guerra, whom I have men- 
tioned as meeting at Santa Barbara. I had a good deal of 
conversation with these gentlemen, who stood alone in an 
assembly of Americans, who had conquered their country, 
spared pillars of the past. Don Andres had fought us at San 
Pazqual and Sepulveda's rancho, in 1846, and as he fought 
bravely, not a common thing among the Mexicans, and, in- 
deed, repulsed Kearney, is always treated with respect. He 
had the satisfaction, dear to the proud Spanish heart, of mak- 
ing a speech before a Senate of Americans, in favour of the 
retention in office of an officer of our army who was wounded 
at San Pazqual, and whom some wretched caucus was going to 
displace to carry out a political job. Don Andres's magna- 
nimity and indignation carried the day. 

My last visit in this part of the country was to a new and 
rich farming region, the Napa Valley, the United States Navy 
Yard at Mare Island, the river gold workings, and the Geysers, 
and old Mr. John Yount's rancho. On board the steamer, 
found Mr. Edward Stanley, formerly member of Congress from 
North Carolina, who became my companion for the greater 
part of my trip; I also met — a revival on the spot of an ac- 
quaintance of twenty years ago ^ Don Guadalupe Vallejo; I 
may say acquaintance, for although I was then before the 



420 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

mast, he knew my story, and, as he spoke English well, used 
to hold many conversations with me, when in the boat or on 
shore. He received me with true earnestness, and would not 
hear of my passing his estate without visiting him. He re- 
minded me of a remark I made to him once, when pulling him 
ashore in the boat, when he was commandante at the Presidio. 
I learned that the two Vallejos, Guadalupe and Salvador, 
owned, at an early time, nearly all Napa and Sonoma, having 
princely estates. But they have not much left. They were 
nearly ruined by their bargain with the State, that they would 
put up the public buildings if the Capital should be placed at 
Vallejo, then a town of some promise. They spent ^100,000, 
the Capital was moved there, and in two years removed to San 
Jos6 on another contract. The town fell to pieces, and the 
houses, chiefly wooden, were taken down and removed. I 
accepted the old gentleman's invitation so far as to stop at 
Vallejo to breakfast. 

The United States Navy Yard, at Mare Island, near Val- 
lejo, is large and well placed, with deep fresh water. The old 
Independence, and the sloop Decatur, and two steamers were 
there, and they were experimenting on building a despatch 
boat, the Saginaw, of California timber. 

I have no excuse for attempting to describe my visit through 
the fertile and beautiful Napa Valley, nor even, what exceeded 
that in interest, my visit to old John Yount at his rancho, 
where I heard from his own lips some of his most interesting 
stories of hunting and trapping and Indian fighting, during an 
adventurous life of forty years of such work, between our back 
settlements in Missouri and Arkansas, and the mountains of 
California, trapping the Colorado and Gila, — and his cele- 
brated dream, thrice repeated, which led him to organize a 
party to go out over the mountains, that did actually rescue 
from death by starvation the wretched remnants of the Donner 
party. 

I must not pause for the dreary country of the Geysers, 
the screaming escapes of steam, the sulphur, the boiling cal- 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 42 1 

drons of black and yellow and green, and the region of Ge- 
henna, through which runs a quiet stream of pure water ; nor 
for the park scenery, and captivating ranchos of the Napa 
Valley, where farming is done on so grand a scale, — where I 
have seen a man plough a furrow by little red flags on sticks, 
to keep his range by, until nearly out of sight, and where, the 
wits tell us, he returns the next day on the back furrow; a 
region where, at Christmas time, I have seen old strawberries 
still on the vines, by the side of vines in full blossom for the 
next crop, and grapes in the same stages, and open windows, 
and yet a grateful wood fire on the hearth in early morning ; 
nor for the titanic operations of hydraulic surface mining, 
where large mountain streams are diverted from their ancient 
beds, and made to do the work, beyond the reach of all other 
agents, of washing out valleys and carrying away hills, and 
changing the whole surface of the country, to expose the stores 
of gold hidden for centuries in the darkness of their earthy 
depths. 

January loth, i860. I am again in San Francisco, and 
my revisit to California is closed. I have touched too lightly 
and rapidly for much impression upon the reader on my last 
visit into the interior ; but, as I have said, in a mere continua- 
tion to a narrative of a sea-faring life on the coast, I am only 
to carry the reader with me on a revisit to those scenes in 
which the public has long manifested so gratifying an interest. 
But it seemed to me that slight notices of these entirely new 
parts of the country would not be out of place, for they serve 
to put in strong contrast with the solitudes of 1835-6 the de- 
veloped interior, with its mines, and agricultural wealth, and 
rapidly filling population, and its large cities, so far from the 
coast, with their education, religion, arts, and trade. 

On the morning of the nth January, i860, I passed, for 
the eighth time, through the Golden Gate, on my way across 
the delightful Pacific to the oriental world, with its civilization 
three thousand years older than that I was leaving behind. 
As the shores of California faded in the distance, and the 



422 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

summits of the Coast Range sank under the blue horizon, I 
bade farewell — yes, I do not doubt, forever — to those scenes 
which, however changed or unchanged, must always possess 
an ineffable interest for me. 



It is time my fellow-travellers and I should part company. 
But I have been requested by a great many persons to give 
some account of the subsequent history of the vessels and their 
crews, with which I had made them acquainted. I attempt 
the following sketches in deference to these suggestions, and 
not, I trust, with any undue estimate of the general interest 
my narrative may have created. 

Something less than a year after my return in the Alert, 
and when, my eyes having recovered, I was again in college 
life, I found one morning in the newspapers, among the 
arrivals of the day before, " The brig Pilgrim, Faucon, from 
San Diego, California." In a few hours I was down in Ann 
Street, and on my way to Hackstadt's boarding-house, where 
I knew Tom Harris and others would lodge. Entering the 
front room, I heard my name called from amid a group of blue- 
jackets, and several sunburned, tar-coloured men came forward 
to speak to me. They were, at first, a little embarrassed by 
the dress and style in which they had never seen me, and one 
of them was calling me Mr. Dana ; but I soon stopped that, 
and we were shipmates once more. First, there was Tom 
Harris, in a characteristic occupation. I had made him 
promise to come and see me when we parted in San Diego ; 
he had got a directory of Boston, found the street and number 
of my father's house, and, by a study of the plag^ of the city, 
had laid out his course, and was committing it to memory. 
He said he could go straight to the house without asking a 
question. And so he could, for I took the book from him, 
and he gave his course, naming each street and turn to right 
or left, directly to the door. 

Tom had been second mate of the Pilgrim, and had laid up 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 423 

no mean sum of money. True to his resolution, he was going 
to England to find his mother, and he entered into the com- 
parative advantages of taking his money home in gold or in 
bills, — a matter of some moment, as this was in the disastrous 
financial year of 1837. He seemed to have his ideas well 
arranged, but I took him to a leading banker, whose advice 
he followed ; and, declining my invitation to go up and show 
himself to my friends, he was off for New York that after- 
noon, to sail the next day for Liverpool. The last I ever saw 
of Tom Harris was as he passed down Tremont Street on the 
sidewalk, a man dragging a hand-cart in the street by his side, 
on which were his voyage-worn chest, his mattress, and a box 
of nautical instruments. 

Sam seemed to have got funny again, and he and John the 
Swede learned that Captain Thompson had several months 
before sailed in command of a ship for the coast of Sumatra, 
and that their chance of proceedings against him at law was 
hopeless. Sam was afterwards lost in a brig off the coast of 
Brazil, when all hands went down. Of John and the rest 
of the men I have never heard. The Marblehead boy, Sam, 
turned out badly; and, although he had influential friends, 
never allowed them to improve his condition. The old car^ 
penter, the Fin, of whom the cook stood in such awe (ante, p, 
40), had fallen sick and died in Santa Barbara, and was buried 
ashore. Jim Hall, from the Kennebec, who sailed with us be- 
fore the mast, and was made second mate in Foster's place, 
came home chief mate of the Pilgrim. I have often seen him 
since. His lot has been prosperous, as he well deserved it 
should be. He has commanded the largest ships, and, when I 
last saw him, was going to the Pacific coast of South America, 
to take charge of a line of mail steamers. Poor, luckless 
Foster I have twice seen. He came into my rooms in Boston, 
after I had become a barrister and my narrative had been pub- 
lished, and told me he was chief mate of a big ship, that he 
had heard I had said some things unfavourable of him in my 
book ; that he had just bought it, and was going to read it that 



424 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

night, and if I had said anything unfair of him, he would 
punish me if he found me in State Street. I surveyed him 
from head to foot, and said to him, " Foster, you were not a 
formidable man when I last knew you, and I don't believe you 
are now." Either he was of my opinion, or thought I had 
spoken of him well enough, for the next (and last) time I met 
him he was civil and pleasant. 

I believe I omitted to state that Mr. Andrew B. Amerzene, 
the chief mate of the Pilgrim, an estimable, kind, and trust- 
worthy man, had a difficulty with Captain Faucon, who thought 
him slack, was turned off duty, and sent home with us in the 
Alert. Captain Thompson, instead of giving him the place of 
a mate off duty, put him into the narrow between-decks, where 
a space, not over four feet high, had been left out among the 
hides, and there compelled him to live the whole wearisome 
voyage, through trades and tropics, and round Cape Horn, 
with nothing to do, — not allowed to converse or walk with 
the officers, and obliged to get his grub himself from the galley, 
in the tin pot and kid of a common sailor. I used to talk with 
him as much as I had opportunity to, but his lot was wretched, 
and in every way wounding to his feelings. After our arrival, 
Captain Thompson was obliged to make him compensation 
for this treatment. It happens that I have never heard of 
him since. 

Henry Melius, who had been in a counting-house in Boston, 
and left the forecastle, on the coast, to be agent's clerk, and 
whom I met, a married man, at Los Angeles in 1859, died at 
that place a few years ago, not having been successful in com- 
mercial life. Ben Stimson left the sea for the fresh water and 
prairies, settled in Detroit as a merchant, and when I visited 
that city, in 1863, I was rejoiced to find him a prosperous 
and respected man, and the same generous-hearted shipmate 
as ever. 

This ends the catalogue of the Pilgrim's original crew, ex- 
cept her first master. Captain Thompson. He was not em- 
ployed by the same firm again, and got up a voyage to the 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 425 

coast of Sumatra for pepper. A cousin and classmate of mine, 
Mr. Channing, went as supercargo, not having consulted me 
as to the captain. First, Captain Thompson got into diffi- 
culties with another American vessel on the coast, which 
charged him with having taken some advantage of her in get- 
ting pepper ; and then with the natives, who accused him of 
having obtained too much pepper for his weights. The natives 
seized him, one afternoon, as he landed in his boat, and de- 
manded of him to sign an order on the supercargo for the 
Spanish dollars that they said were due them, on pain of being 
imprisoned on shore. He never failed in pluck, and now 
ordered his boat aboard, leaving him ashore, the officer to tell 
the supercargo to obey no direction except under his hand. 
For several successive days and nights, his ship, the Alciope, 
lay in the burning sun, with rain-squalls and thunder-clouds 
coming over the high mountains, waiting for a word from him. 
Toward evening of the fourth or fifth day he was seen on the 
beach, hailing for the boat. The natives, finding they could 
not force more money from him, were afraid to hold him 
longer, and had let him go. He sprang into the boat, urged 
her off with the utmost eagerness, leaped on board the ship 
like a tiger, his eyes flashing and his face full of blood, ordered 
the anchor aweigh, and the topsails set, the four guns, two on 
a side, loaded with all sorts of devilish stuff, and wore her 
round, and, keeping as close into the bamboo village as he 
could, gave them both broadsides, slam-bang into the midst 
of the houses and people, and stood out to sea ! As his ex- 
citement passed off, headache, languor, fever, set in, — the 
deadly coast-fever, contracted from the water and night-dews 
on shore and his maddened temper. He ordered the ship to 
Penang, and never saw the deck again. He died on the pas- 
sage, and was buried at sea. Mr. Channing, who took care of 
him in his sickness and delirium, caught the fever from him, 
but, as we gratefully remember, did not die until the ship made 
port, and he was under the kindly roof of a hospitable family 
in Penang. The chief mate, also, took the fever, and the 



426 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

second mate and crew deserted ; and, although the chief mate 
recovered and took the ship to Europe and home, the voyage 
was a melancholy disaster. In a tour I made round the world 
in 1 8 59- 1 860, of which my revisit to California was the begin- 
ning, I went to Penang. In that fairy-like scene of sea and 
sky and shore, as beautiful as material earth can be, with its 
fruits and flowers of a perpetual summer, — somewhere in 
which still lurks the deadly fever, — I found the tomb of my 
kinsman, classmate, and friend. Standing beside his grave, 
I tried not to think that his life had been sacrificed to the 
faults and violence of another ; I tried not to think too hardly 
of that other, who at least had suffered in death. 

The dear old Pilgrim herself ! She was sold, at the end of 
this voyage, to a merchant in New Hampshire, who employed 
her on short voyages, and, after a few years, I read of her 
total loss at sea, by fire, off the coast of North Carolina. 

Captain Faucon, who took out the Alert, and brought 
home the Pilgrim, spent many years in command of vessels in 
the Indian and Chinese seas, and was in our volunteer navy 
during the late war, commanding several large vessels in suc- 
cession, on the blockade of the Carolinas, with the rank of 
lieutenant. He has now given up the sea, but still keeps it 
under his eye, from the piazza of his house on the most beauti- 
ful hill in the environs of Boston. I have the pleasure of 
meeting him often. Once, in speaking of the Alert's crew, in 
a company of gentlemen, I heard him say that that crew was 
exceptional ; that he had passed all his life at sea, but whether 
before the mast or abaft, whether officer or master, he had 
never met such a crew, and never should expect to ; and that 
the two officers of the Alert, long ago shipmasters, agreed 
with him that, for intelligence, knowledge of duty and wil- 
lingness to perform it, pride in the ship, her appearance and 
sailing, and in absolute reliableness, they never had seen 
their equal. Especially he spoke of his favourite seaman, French 
John. John, after a few more years at sea, became a boatman, 
and kept his neat boat at the end of Granite Wharf, and was 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 427 

ready to take all, but delighted to take any of us, of the old 
Alert's crew, to sail down the harbour. One day Captain 
Faucon went to the end of the wharf to board a vessel in the 
stream, and hailed for John. There was no response, and his 
boat was not there. He inquired, of a boatman near, where 
John was. The time had come that comes to all ! There was 
no loyal voice to respond to the familiar call, the hatches had 
closed over him, his boat was sold to another, and he had left 
not a trace behind. We could not find out even where he 
was buried. 

Mr. Richard Brown, of Marblehead, our chief mate in the 
Alert, commanded many of our noblest ships in the European 
trade, a general favourite. A few years ago, while stepping 
on board his ship from the wharf, he fell from the plank into 
the hold and was killed. If he did not actually die at sea, at 
least he died as a sailor, — he died on board ship. 

Our second mate, Evans, no one liked or cared for, and I 
know nothing of him, except that I once saw him in court, on 
trial for some alleged petty tyranny towards his men, — still 
a subaltern officer. 

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, 
though only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the 
next voyage, and rose soon to command some of the finest 
clippers in the California and India trade, under the new order 
of things, — a man of character, good judgment, and no little 
cultivation. 

Of the other men before the mast in the Alert, I know 
nothing of peculiar interest. When visiting, with a party of 
ladies and gentlemen, one of our largest line-of-battle ships, 
we were escorted about the decks by a midshipman, who was 
explaining various matters on board, when one of the party 
came to me and told me that there was an old sailor there 
with a whistle round his neck, who looked at me and said of 
the officer, "He can't show him anything aboard a ship." I 
found him out, and, looking into his sunburnt face, covered 
with hair, and his little eyes drawn up into the smallest 



428 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

passages for light, — like a man who had peered into hundreds 
of northeasters, — there was old " Sails " of the Alert, clothed 
in all the honours of boatswain's-mate. We stood aside, out 
of the cun of the officers, and had a good talk over old times. 
I remember the contempt with which he turned on his heel 
to conceal his face, when the midshipman (who was a grown 
youth) could not tell the ladies- the length of a fathom, and 
said it depended on circumstances. Notwithstanding his ad- 
vice and consolation to " Chips," in the steerage of the Alert, 
and his story of his runaway wife and the flag-bottomed chairs 
(ante, p. 274), he confessed to me that he had tried marriage 
again, and had a little tenement just outside the gate of the 
yard. 

Harry Bennett, the man who had the palsy, and was un- 
feelingly left on shore when the Alert sailed, came home in 
the Pilgrim, and I had the pleasure of helping to get him into 
the Massachusetts General Hospital. When he had been 
there about a week, I went to see him in his ward, and asked 
him how he got along. " Oh ! first-rate usage, sir ; not a 
hand's turn to do, and all your grub brought to you, sir." 
This is a sailor's paradise, — not a hand's turn to do, and all 
your grub brought to you. But an earthly paradise may pall. 
Bennett got tired of indoors and stillness, and was soon out 
again, and set up a stall, covered with canvas, at the end of 
one of the bridges, where he could see all the passers by, and 
turn a penny by cakes and ale. The stall in time disappeared, 
and I could learn nothing of his last end, if it has come. 

Of the lads who, beside myself, composed the gig's crew, 
I know something of all but one. Our bright-eyed, quick- 
witted little cockswain, from the Boston public schools, Harry 
May, or Harry Bluff, as he was called, with all his songs and 
gibes, went the road to ruin as fast as the usual means could 
carry him. Nat, the "bucket-maker," grave and sober, left 
the seas, and, I believe, is a hack-driver in his native town, 
although I have not had the luck to see him since the Alert 
hauled into her berth at the North End. 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 429 

One cold winter evening, a pull at the bell, and a woman 
in distress wished to see me. Her poor son George, — George 
Somerby, — ** You remember him, sir ; he was a boy in the 
Alert ; he always talks of you, — he is dying in my poor 
house." I went with her, and in a small room, with the most 
scanty furniture, upon a mattress on the floor, — emaciated, 
ashy pale, with hollow voice and sunken eyes, — lay the boy 
George, whom we took out a small, bright boy of fourteen 
from a Boston public school, who fought himself into a posi- 
tion on board ship (ante, p. 254), and whom we brought home 
a tall, athletic youth, that might have been the pride and sup- 
port of his widowed mother. There he lay, not over nineteen 
years of age, ruined by every vice a sailor's life absorbs. He 
took my hand in his wasted feeble fingers, and talked a little 
with his hollow, death-smitten voice. I was to leave town the 
next day for a fortnight's absence, and whom had they to see 
to them ? The mother named her landlord, — she knew no 
one else able to do much for them. It was the name of a 
physician of wealth and high social position, well known in the 
city as the owner of many small tenements, and of whom hard 
things had been said as to his strictness in collecting what he 
thought his dues. Be that as it may, my memory associates 
him only with ready and active beneficence. His name has 
since been known the civilized world over, from his having 
been the victim of one of the most painful tragedies in the 
records of the criminal law, I tried the experiment of calling 
upon him ; and, having drawn him away from the cheerful 
fire, sofa, and curtains of a luxurious parlour, I told him this 
simple tale of woe, of one of his tenants, unknown to him even 
by name. He did not hesitate ; and I well remember how, in 
that biting, eager air, and at a late hour, he drew his cloak 
about his thin and bent form, and walked off with me across 
the Common, and to the South End, nearly two miles of an 
exposed walk, to the scene of misery. He gave his full share, 
and more, of kindness and material aid ; and, as George's 
mother told me, on my return, had with medical aid and stores. 



430 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

and a clergyman, made the boy's end as comfortable and 
hopeful as possible. 

The Alert made two more voyages to the coast of Cali- 
fornia, successful, and without a mishap, as usual, and was 
sold by Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis, in 1843, to Mr. Thomas 
W. Williams, a merchant of New London, Connecticut, who 
employed her in the whale-trade in the Pacific. She was as 
lucky and prosperous there as in the merchant service. When 
I was at the Sandwich Islands in 1 860, a man was introduced 
to me as having commanded the Alert on two cruises, and his 
friends told me that he was as proud of it as if he had com- 
manded a frigate. 

I am permitted to publish the following letter from the 
owner of the Alert, giving her later record and her historic 
end, — captured and burned by the rebel Alabama : — 

New London, March 17, 1868. 
Richard H. Dana, Esq. : 

Dear Sir, — I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of 
your favour of the 14th inst., and to answer your inquiries 
about the good ship Alert. I bought her of Messrs. Bryant 
and Sturgis, in the year 1843, ^^^ ^Y firm of Williams and 
Haven, for a whaler, in which business she was successful 
until captured by the rebel steamer Alabama, September, 
1862, making a period of more than nineteen years, during 
which she took and delivered at New London upwards of 
twenty-five thousand barrels of whale and sperm oil. She 
sailed last from this port, August 30, 1862, for Hurd's Island 
(the newly-discovered land south of Kerguelen's), commanded 
by Edwin Church, and was captured and burned on the 9th 
of September following, only ten days out, near or close to 
the Azores, with thirty barrels of sperm oil on board, and 
while her boats were off in pursuit of whales. 

The Alert was a favourite ship with all owners, ofificers, 
and men who had anything to do with her ; and I may add 
almost all who heard her name asked if that was the ship the 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 43 ^ 

man went in who wrote the book called " Two Years before 
the Mast " ; and thus we feel, with you, no doubt, a sort of 
sympathy at her loss, and that, too, in such a manner, and by 
wicked acts of our own countrymen. 

My partner, Mr. Haven, sends me a note from the office 
this p. M., saying that he had just found the last log-book, 
and would send up this evening a copy of the last entry on it ; 
and if there should be anything of importance I will enclose 
it to you, and if you have any further inquiries to put, I will, 
with great pleasure, endeavour to answer them. 

Remaining very respectfully and truly yours, 

Thomas W. Williams. 

P. S. — Since writing the above I have received the extract 
from the log-book, and enclose the same. 

THE LAST ENTRY IN THE LOG-BOOK OF THE ALERT. 

*' September 9, 1862. 

*' Shortly after the ship came to wind, with the main yard 
aback, we went alongside and were hoisted up, when we found 
we were prisoners of war, and our ship a prize to the Con- 
federate steamer Alabama. We were then ordered to give 
up all nautical instruments and letters appertaining to any of 
us. Afterwards we were offered the privilege, as they called 
it, of joining the steamer or signing a parole of honour not to 
serve in the army or navy of the United States. Thank God 
no one accepted the former of these offers. We were all then 
ordered to get our things ready in haste, to go on shore, — 
the ship running off shore all the time. We were allowed 
four boats to go on shore in, and when we had got what things 
we could take in them, were ordered to get into the boats and 
pull for the shore, — the nearest land being about fourteen 
miles off, — which we reached in safety, and, shortly after, 
saw the ship in flames. 

" So end all our bright prospects, blasted by a gang of 



432 TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 

miscreants, who certainly can have no regard for humanity 
so long as they continue to foster their so-called peculiar in- 
stitution, which is now destroying our country." 

I love to think that our noble ship, with her long record of 
good service and uniform success, attractive and beloved in her 
life, should have passed, at her death, into the lofty regions of 
international jurisprudence and debate, forming a part of the 
body of the "Alabama Claims"; — that, like a true ship, 
committed to her element once for all at her launching, she 
perished at sea, and, without an extreme use of language, we 
may say, a victim in the cause of her country. 

R. H. D., Jr. 
Boston, May 6, 1869. 



THE END 



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